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Dated Covenants Pitting Neighbor Against Neighbor

Posted November 23, 2007

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— An old agreement among neighbors is pitting homeowner against homeowner. The dispute is over dated covenants in the Raleigh neighborhood of Sunset Hills.

"I like the wooded areas. I like the trees. I would like the neighborhood to stay as much as possible," Sunset Hills homeowner Francis Hale said.

The Raleigh neighborhood of Sunset Hills is changing. Older, smaller homes are being replaced with new, larger ones. Hale said at least two new homes are in direct violation of the neighborhood's covenants.

The covenants – that date back to 1944 – state a home cannot be built on less than two lots. No one apparently knew these covenants existed until a builder went to sell a home. A title search uncovered the two houses in violation.

"Some of the codes in the covenants are completely outdated," Sunset Hills homeowner Stephen Flournoy said.

Flournoy lives in one of the new, larger homes in Sunset Hills. He pointed out a restriction that stated no person of any race other than the Caucasian race can live in Sunset Hills, unless they are a servant.

That restriction has been declared unconstitutional, but the others are still in place.
Some people would like to see all the covenants go away.

"It should be allowed to change if the majority of the people here want it," Flournoy said.

Hale started a petition to keep the covenants in place. He said he is also considering taking the issue to court. The larger homes could then be ordered to relocated or be torn down.

"I don't want to make life difficult on my neighbors, but I'm sure they are well protected. I'm willing to go as far as a can," Hale said.

The attorney for the builder with the non-compliant house declined to comment. His law office is circulating another document that would allow the covenants to expire next year, if the majority of homeowners sign off on it.

62 Comments

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  • thewayitis Nov 25, 2007

    Whoever issued the building permit is at fault. If the city/county issued the permits, the houses already built should be allowed to stand. Then no more permits should be issued that go against the covenants.

  • Jugi Nov 25, 2007

    Go away, McMansions!

  • Old Raleigh Native Nov 25, 2007

    I grew up in that neighborhood and my parents still live there. I'm not against change but I don't like the huge houses that are replacing the smaller ones. I hope my folks sign the petition to keep the covenants in place. This could have been avoided if the builder had done his homework prior to bringing the bulldozers.

  • Durham-Raleigh Nov 25, 2007

    "And, if you don't like the restrictive covenants then buy your home in a neighborhood that does not have them - you can see how poorly those neighborhoods fare in growth and value."

    I actually don't have a problem with HOAs/covenants, but I wanted to point out that this is not always true. In 2005, the Trinity Park section of Durham had the highest appreciation of any neighborhood in the Triangle. TP was settled in the 1920s (and developed by Buck Duke, no less); immediately adjacent to downtown Durham, it has no covenants or HOAs and is a National Historic District but not a local one, which means no restrictions on property use.

    Urban living is becoming more attractive to younger professionals, and I expect we'll see the greatest growth in value in traditional, in-town neighborhoods, while rising gas prices and congestion make F-V, Wake Forest, etc. less interesting in 10-15 years.

  • jenmaris Nov 25, 2007

    If the situation was reversed and a neighborhood filled with big houses started picking on neighbors with newly built small houses, telling them they missed something so they have to move their homes, there would be a HUGE OUTCRY against the neighbor trying to throw out the new, small houses. Why isn't this happening just because the house in question is large? These are still PEOPLE who invested in this neighborhood. Hale is the worst kind of intolerant troublemaker.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Nov 24, 2007

    This is proof-positive that the quote, "the more things change, the more they stay the same" still holds true. How far we've come isn't a reflection of out-dated covenants like these.

    Somewhere in Kentucky several years ago, there was an outdated law that allowed a husband to beat his wife with a stick, providing the stick was less than 36-inches in length. Go figure!

  • Dido Nov 24, 2007

    "He pointed out a restriction that stated no person of any race other than the Caucasian race can live in Sunset Hills, unless they are a servant."

    So, if this is indeed part of the covenants in this neighborhood, does that mean some people will have to move? Or do the residents of Sunset Hills get to pick and choose what covenants they want to enforce?
    Or,if a house has to be built on a minimum of two lots, does that mean someone could potentially build one of those "McMansions" that have been the topic of discussion lately?
    Wonder how many people living in this neighborhood actually know what these convenants contain.

  • fairyswearboots2 Nov 24, 2007

    Does he say Bah Humbug ! this dude must be the Grinch! Who stole his toys when he was a kid !

  • moonpie Nov 24, 2007

    If the covenant was in place before the home or lot was purchased, then the covenant should stand. If the homeowner is not happy with it, he or she should try to get it amended.
    It's sorta like someone moving into a home in an established airplane flight path then complaining about the noise.

  • lauraleigh Nov 24, 2007

    It's not only a realtor's responsibility; it's the responsibility of the attorney representing buyer and seller in these markets. The whole thing should have been caught before building permits were issued. But ultimately, it's the builder's/owner's responsibility - and loss.

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