The Hickory Farms Architectural Control Committee (ACC) reviews compliance by homeowners with Article VII of the Restrictive Covenants. The ACC provides information regarding when, where, how, and what procedures must be followed by HFCA residents to make exterior improvements or changes to their property (i.e., only those changes which are visible from outside the home).
Section 2 of Article VII of the Restrictive Covenants specifies that:
No structure or alterations to any structure shall be permitted on any lot in this subdivision until the plans and specifications and a plan showing the location of the structure has been approved by the Architectural Control Committee as to quality of workmanship and materials, harmony of external design with existing structures, and as to location with respect to topography and finish grade elevation.
The actions of the ACC are affected by a number of documents, including:
ACC members may also be interested in reviewing the following:
Authority for the ACC derives from the Restrictive Covenants. The ACC uses the Restrictive Covenants as a foundation upon which to approve or disapprove homeowner applications for exterior improvements or changes to their property.
The Board of Directors (Board) appoints the members of the Architectural Control Committee. Consequently, the ACC operates under the authority of the Board and the Board may overrule decisions of the ACC.
A waiver of the provisions of the Restrictive Covenants is permitted only when specifically granted in the Restrictive Covenants. If provision for a waiver is not specifically provided for in the Restrictive Covenants, then the waiver is not permitted and the restriction is absolute. For example, the provision that fences may be erected in back yards only may not be waived.
Under the Hickory Farms Rules and Regulations, The committee shall consist of a minimum of four homeowners (including the chairperson who is a member of the Board of Directors). Also under the Rules and Regulations, the President of the Board of Directors is an ex-officio member of the ACC, who will resolve voting deadlocks.
Discussion of and voting on applications are generally conducted by email. The Chairman distributes an electronic version of the application to the members, moderates discussions, tallies the votes of the members, and informs the homeowner of the ACC’s decision. The approvals and disapprovals are noted in the following month’s newsletter.
Information on the ACC application process may be found on the Hickory Farms web page: ACC Approval Process. Applicants are encouraged to email their application to the ACC Chairman. If the Chairman is not available, the applicant may hand deliver the application to any ACC member or mail it to: P.O. Box 2239, Fairfax, VA 22031. (However, mailing could cause significant delay at the post office box is not checked daily). Electronic versions of photos and plans, submitted by email, are preferred to hard copies.
Under Section 6 of Article VII of the Restrictive Covenants, the ACC has 30 days to act on the application If the ACC does not act within 30 days of receipt, the application goes into effect by operation of law. The 30-day clock begins with receipt of the application by the ACC.
At a meeting or via email, the Chairman distributes the application to the ACC members, moderates discussions, and tallies the votes of the members. Following the vote of the members, the Chairman notifies the applicant of the decision of the ACC. The decision of the ACC is then delivered either in writing or by email.
A simple majority of the ACC membership is sufficient for approval of an application. When voting is conducted by email, it is possible that some members may not vote by virtue of being on vacation, the exigency of business, etc. In these cases, the Chairman may consider the application approved once a majority of ACC members have voted “aye.”
The Chairman should use his or her judgment to encourage discussion on controversial applications. In such cases, all ACC members are encouraged to voice their opinions to ensure the application is fully vetted.
Since the President of the Board of Directors is an ex-officio member of the ACC, he or she may be asked to resolve voting deadlocks. Moreover, the Board may be consulted early on when controversial applications are being considered by the ACC.
It is the responsibility of the Chairman to maintain continuing records of the ACC, and to pass those documents on -- intact -- to his or her successor. It is important that records be maintained in case a dispute may arise as to whether precedence exists for a new application. In this era of personal computers, it is essential that backups of the ACC files be maintained.
Each month, the Chairman provides summary information of approvals and disapprovals to the editor of the community newsletter for publication.
The Restrictive Covenants cover a variety of topics, in addition to modifications to the exterior of neighborhood homes. These include:
While the Restrictive Covenants describe restrictions on the above topics, their enforcement is not specifically assigned to the ACC. This is in contrast with Section 2 of Article VII of the Restrictive Covenants, which specifically assigns approvals for modifications of structures to the ACC. In 2008, the ACC and Board of Directors informally agreed that the ACC’s responsibility would only include approvals and disapprovals of proposed changes to the exteriors of homes (i.e., construction projects). The enforcement of other provisions under the Restrictive Covenants (enumerated above) and the Rules and Regulations would be the responsibility of the Board of Directors.
In addition to acting on applications by homeowners, it is the responsibility of the ACC to contact homeowners that neglected to obtain prior ACC approval for modifications to the exteriors of their home, and secure their compliance. It is the responsibility of the Board to communicate with homeowners concerning other infractions (see bullets above).
The Rules and Regulations describe operating procedures to assure due process in cases where there is a question of compliance by a homeowner with provisions controlling of the Virginia Property Owners Association Act and the HFCA documents (Restrictive Covenants, Rules and Regulations, etc.) in order to minimize the necessity of seeking action through a court of law. Under those procedures, the ACC is designated the tribunal before which hearings are held. If called upon, the ACC conducts a hearing, prepares a recommendation, and forwards the recommendation to the Board of Directors for final disposition.