Are You Renovating Your House?  Get Your Changes Approved Quickly!

 

If you are changing the external appearance of your property, you MUST obtain Hickory Farms

Architectural Control Committee (ACC) approval before construction begins.

 

The ACC is appointed by the Hickory Farms Board of Directors to review applications for modifications to the exterior appearance of houses and other appearance items relevant to our community (fences, sidewalks, patios, sheds, etc).  The ACC enforces the Hickory Farms Restrictive Covenants.  When you purchased your home, it came under the jurisdiction of these Restrictive Covenants, which are included with your deed.  You should have been given copies of the Restrictive Covenants, Rules and Regulations, and other relevant documents in the "VPOAA Disclosure Package" when you purchased your home.  The Restrictive Covenants have been interpreted in the Rules and Regulations, adopted by the Board of Directors and affirmed by the homeowners of Hickory Farms.

 

This document does not constitute a binding interpretation of the responsibilities of the ACC, the Restrictive Covenants, or the Rules and Regulations.  It is the role of the ACC to interpret and rule in accordance with the Restrictive Covenants and Rules and Regulations, at the time the application is reviewed, to preserve the property values, maintain the harmony of the community, and maintain its desirability as a neighborhood in which we live.

 

Under the Restrictive Covenants, if the ACC has not acted upon an application within 30 days of submission, "approval will not be required and the related covenants shall be deemed to have been fully complied with."  However, even though the ACC has 30 days to review the application, most requests are processed more quickly than that.  Note, however, that if the application is not complete as to the information needed to evaluate the application, the ACC may request additional information.  The “30 day clock” restarts when the required information is physically received by the ACC.  So, make your first submission your best; it will save you time, and time the ACC members need to review your application. 

 

Please be courteous in your dealings with the ACC.  The ACC is comprised of your neighbors who are volunteering their time on behalf of our community.  They deserve your respect.

 

Check with the Fairfax County Public Works and Environmental Services Department – Building Permits (703-222-0114) to determine whether your project needs its approval.   On the building permit application is a note that Fairfax County approval is contingent upon approval by the applicable community association (i.e., the Hickory Farms Community Association).  We recommend that you attach a copy of your ACC approval letter with your building permit application.

 

Fairfax County is generally concerned about the structural and zoning aspects of your project, not its appearance (color, style, etc.)  The ACC, in contrast, is more concerned about the harmony of the appearance of the project with the rest of the community, not technicalities such as how deep your footings are.  The ACC is not in the business of interpreting Fairfax County Code regarding your project.  Even if your project is permitted by the Fairfax County Code, that does not mean that it is consistent with the Restrictive Covenants and Rules and Regulations, and vice versa.

 

This is not an all inclusive list of the kinds of applications that the ACC reviews.

 

·         Modifications that affect the outside appearance of the house.

 

·         Changes to the elevations of the property around the house, including re-grading of the property.

 

·         Changes to driveways and sidewalks, including widening.

 

·         The construction and location of sheds and fences.

 

·         The ACC does not review interior modifications to your house that do not change its exterior appearance.

 

·         The ACC does not review the removal of or planting of trees and shrubs, except for the planting of "ornamental hedge fences" in the front yard.

 

The ACC may grant a waiver to the Restrictive Covenants only where specified.  Many Restrictive Covenant provisions are absolute and cannot be waived.  For example, the prohibition against fences in  front yards is absolute; there is no provision that permits the ACC or the Board of Directors to approve any fence in front of your house.

 

Each ACC member reviews your application and then votes whether the proposal is consistent with the Restrictive Covenants and Rules and Regulations.  A majority vote of ACC members is needed to approve the application.  Most applications receive unanimous approval.  The ACC usually has the final say as to approving or disapproving an application. For controversial or precedent-setting projects, however, the ACC may consult with the Board of Directors or the membership at large for a sense of the community.  If an application is denied, the homeowner may appeal the decision to the Board of Directors under the Due Process Procedures that are included in the Rules and Regulations.

 

ACC approval is required before any construction may begin.  If the homeowner begins construction without ACC approval, the ACC, through the Board of Directors and legal counsel, may, among other actions, 1) file a complaint with the Fairfax County building permit authorities asking them to halt construction, 2) contact the homeowner and request the homeowner to stop construction, or 3) file a lawsuit in Fairfax Country court.  Under the Rules and Regulations, the Board of Directors may initiate proceedings to bring the property into compliance, up to and including monetary charges of up to $10 per day plus court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees in obtaining a lien against the property.  Consequently, compliance by the homeowner would be required before the property could be sold.  At the very worst, the homeowner could be required to demolish the project and restore the property to a state that is in compliance before it is sold.

 

Only ACC approvals in writing or sent by email are valid.   Please don't ask for oral approval of your application.  Emailed approvals are effective only after the homeowner has acknowledged receipt by replying to the email.

 

ACC approval letters specify that the homeowner has one year to complete the project.  If the homeowner has not completed the project as described in the application within that time, they must submit a new application to the ACC.

 

ACC approval is valid only for the project as described in the application.  If the homeowner deviates from the specifications in the application, the ACC approval is not valid. The homeowner would need to submit a new application, which the ACC could reject.

 

Here are some suggestions on how to help the ACC process your application as quickly as possible.

 

·         Use the ACC Application for Architectural Review which is frequently attached to the community newsletter, and available at www.hickoryfarms.org.

 

·        Emailed applications sent to the ACC Chairman are preferred.  If you submit a paper copy, please legibly hand print or type your application.  An all electronic application can be circulated to the ACC almost immediately, even if the Chairman is out of town.

 

·        Note that each application is electronically scanned and emailed to the ACC members for their review.  You can save the ACC valuable review time by scanning the documents yourself.  Likewise, if you are submitted a paper application, note that scanning by the Chairman takes valuable time that the ACC could spend reviewing your application.

 

·         The 30 day review clock begins with the physical receipt of the application by the ACC Chairman, not the date it was postmarked.  If you mail an application to the Hickory Farms post office box, it may take a week or more to be delivered to the ACC Chairman.

 

·         If possible, give the ACC photographs (digital photos preferred) of the relevant portions of your property.  Include photos of other houses in the neighborhood that have done similar projects.

 

·         The ACC is interested in how the appearance of your property will change.  If possible, please provide “before” and “after” drawings for projects that will significantly alter the appearance of the property.

 

·         If the project changes the house’s footprint on the property, provide a copy of the property survey, showing the location of the modifications.  Property surveys are also especially helpful to identify where new fences are to be sited.

 

·        Provide as much detail and information as possible as to the materials to be used, including color, texture, etc.  If you believe it would be helpful, deliver to the ACC samples of materials or internet links.

 

·         If the project is complex, such as an addition, the ACC may request a copy of the detailed exterior plans that were submitted and approved for the Building Permit by Fairfax County.

 

·        The ACC can be particularly helped by a color “after” image showing the completed project.

 

·        The ideal application would be a single PDF file that contains the application form, drawings, plat, photos of materials, etc. Please don't use the highest resolution  when you scan - just enough so that it is clearly legible.  Multiple megabyte files really gobble up disk space, which the ACC Chairman personally donates for use by the Committee.  A file size under 250KB would be just fine.  PDF, JPG, or Word files are preferred; PowerPoint, Wordperfect, and other document types are difficult for the ACC to process.  Please keep your entire submission under 500KB in size.

 

·         Plans, color renditions, drawings, and product information may be retained by the ACC and will be considered to be part of the application.

 

Revised June 2014

ACC Members: Keith Ferguson, Donna Garfield, Greg Gillette,  Ed Kiechlin, Carole Rogers, Kirk Randall, Stefan Schwarz

 

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