Kids' play-set clash pits Gilbert families vs. HOA
Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic
October 25, 2003

By Stephanie Paterik

Joel and Kerri Pogar have written the governor, rounded up their neighbors and spent six months in a law library drafting a suit against their homeowners association.

The issue at hand? A backyard play set.

The Gilbert couple say the HOA in Power Ranch, one of the town's poshest neighborhoods, forced them to get rid of a $4,000 play set because it was 2 feet higher than the 10 feet allowed by HOA design standards.

To add insult to injury, they later found out that 11 other families had the same kind of play set in their yards but had not been forced to take them down. In fact, the Pogar's kids' play set now sits in a backyard around the corner from their house.

The Pogars say they are the latest victims of strong-arm legal tactics and spotty code enforcement by a homeowners association.

"This play set is one issue within a greater problem," said Joel, 33, a computer security analyst. "The homeowners association picks and chooses which rules it will enforce and when it will enforce them."

The Pogars filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court against the

Dave and Angela Buchholz's neighbors are suing their HOA over a play-set dispute. Now, they are part of the dispute.
HOA in July, seeking the cost of the play set, compensation for legal expenses and permission to erect a play set. 

Although the Pogars say they like living under an HOA, "I feel like they took something away from my kids," Joel said. "We felt we had no option but to take it down. After discovering there were other play sets in the neighborhood, I felt like we were picked on."

Residents in the subdivision near Power and Queen Creek roads say that since the lawsuit was filed, the HOA has been cracking down on other play sets that exceed the height restriction.

The Power Ranch Community Association referred calls to its attorney, Jeff Corben, who said the association isn't bullying residents; it is trying to protect their privacy.

"If a kid climbs on that type of play set and if a neighbor is laying out in their back yard, they don't want a kid peering over the fence," he said, adding that the height restriction also exists for "aesthetic reasons."

The Pogars' neighbors, Angie and Dave Buchholz, hired a lawyer to counter threatening letters from the HOA's attorneys. They installed their play set more than a year ago after getting permission from the next-door neighbors and had no problems until recently. 

"I just feel like we're being totally bullied," Angie said. "They don't talk to us for 18 months, so we think everything is OK, and then they sic a lawyer on us?"

The Pogars' play set woes began when they moved to Power Ranch from Ahwatukee last year and brought their 12-foot-tall wooden play set with them. The narrow structure includes a ladder, slide, swings and a canopy. The Pogars' sported a sign that read, "Dana and Nicholas's Clubhouse." 

But shortly after they moved in, a community code inspector spotted the structure and the HOA ultimately said it had to be lowered to 10 feet or be removed. 

After a series of appeals and letters from Power Ranch's lawyer, the Pogars sold the clubhouse to their landscaper for $400. 

Lowering the structure would be unsafe and void the warranty, the manufacturer said.

Kris Henderson, owner of Rainbow Play Systems of Arizona, which made the Pogars' set, said the company has lost sales over the years because of strict HOA regulations.