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Homeowners at odds over viewscape

Council member threatens possible criminal, civil actions
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Two neighbors with open space between them may also be far apart when it comes to a viewscape dispute brewing with the City of Rocklin. Ten homes on Tahoe Vista Drive overlooking homes on Rawhide Road in Clover Valley have been under special restrictions placed by the city since their construction in 2002. Tensions ran high at the May 8 City Council meeting where Rawhide Road resident John Olson confronted officials about city staff errors that, he said, could undermine neighborhood property values.   ?I think it?s absolutely deplorable that people can think the city can issue building permits that aren?t in compliance with those standards up there,? Olson said. ?I fought long and hard with my neighbors to basically mitigate a very ugly eyesore that still exists.? The 20-year resident said he doesn?t want to see houses from Springfield at Whitney Oaks on the hill above him and wants illegal patio covers removed. The latest problem occurred earlier this year when city officials admit staff erroneously issued building permits for patio covers on Tahoe Vista Drive lots, which were against deed restrictions and the city?s own specific plan use permit that bars ?the addition of decks, balconies, room additions or similar structures, attached or detached, beyond the maximum footprint.? ?The error came to our attention through an anonymous complaint,? Rocklin?s Planning and Housing Services Manager Laura Webster told the council. Council member Peter Hill said the patio covers should stay with a permit modification. ?In the years I?ve been here, city staff have done a really good job of reviewing things and making sure the process follows the law,? Hill said. There hasn?t been a complaint about the patio covers in seven years even though 7 of the 10 homes in question now have violations, according to the city.  With that the City Council, in a 4 to 1 vote, approved a resolution to give ten homeowners, like Heath Wakelee who lives on Tahoe Vista Drive, amnesty from code violations on patio covers previously approved by the city. Council member George Magnuson, who lives in Clover Valley, cast the dissenting vote. The issue now is the lack of trees, according to Olson, as well as the lack of ivy to cover ugly retaining walls agreed upon during a city-sponsored site survey in 2006 with the homeowners above. ?Trees were supposed to be planted,? Olson said. ?There was supposed to be landscaping up there to protect the viewshed.? Olson said Tahoe Vista residents are even undermining the agreement by removing trees to improve their own view of Clover Valley. He said trees, which once blocked his view of homes atop the hill, are now gone. ?The neighbors up there seem to feel like they can top these trees, take them out, turn the water off and let them die. And there have been no repercussions,? Olson said. Olson threatened a lawsuit if the city doesn?t start enforcing its own requirements of the homeowners and the Springfield at Whitney Oaks HOA. ?Short of filing lawsuits against the city for compliance of the building codes, I?m at a loss as to how we can trust what the city says they are going to do to protect us,? Olson told the council. The city staff is expected to present a report and plan on the issue to the City Council within the next three weeks. ?I respect the Olson?s right to have what is promised,? Council member Scott Yuill said. Hill called the HOA ?just a bunch of citizens? and said he wanted them held responsible. ?We need to inform the citizens at the top of the hill that if they keep fooling around with this that we?re going to take some action against them and it?s going to hurt,? Hill said.  ?I?d like to know if we have an option to take either civil action or even criminal action.? Wakelee said his fellow Tahoe Vista Drive neighbors, the ?Tahoe Vista Ten? as he called them, were bending over backwards to follow the rules. They had spent more than $4,000 on new trees and should not be punished for the city staff errors. Wakelee didn?t take kindly to the ?disrespectful? threats and said the city would only ?awaken a sleeping giant,? an HOA, that is not shy about their legal rights. He also said the council?s tone could make the November City Council election, where three seats are up for grabs, contentious.    ?They should be prepared for some push back,? Wakelee said. ?You don?t have a right to a view.? However, Wakelee said the city should at least show courageous leadership and get both sides together to resolve issues before it gets to the courts ?Let?s have the city be the leader in this and try to get neighbors talking to neighbors,? he suggested. ?Let?s come up with a consensus and try to work together. I?d tell Olson the same thing.?