Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Help Me Howard: Backyard
It's pricey to have a home along the water in South Florida. But one man says a waterway is slowly eating away his backyard. He wants to pay to stop it and is denied by his association. Here's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Emil Abdalla: "The water has a calming effect."
The South Florida water is so calming, it inspired Emil to leave Philadelphia.
Emil Abdalla: "And I moved in to Harbor Islands for the beauty and safety of the community."
Not only did he get safety, this home on the water also brought him serenity.
Emil Abdalla: "It's very enjoyable to see the water at night and during the day as well and overall just enjoyable."
But of course he is on Help me Howard because the water is not always enjoyable.
Emil Abdalla: "Land back here seems to be falling slowly but surely into the canal."
Emil's property lines the canal, but, unlike most waterfront homes, a seawall does not protect his property from the creeping ocean and doesn't protect his constantly shrinking property.
Emil Abdalla: "In six years it seems like it's done approximately three feet."
Slowly, gently, during a storm, quickly and suddenly, the water erodes away the yard. Fortunately, the 18 neighbors lining the canal have an expensive but simple solution.
Emil Abdalla: "We had requested that we be able to install a seawall at no cost to anyone else other than the people that wanted to improve their property."
The seawall would protect the yard and neighborhood, so they asked their homeowner's association for approval to build seawalls and were told "nope."
Emil Abdalla: "Because neighbors are upset thinking that there is going to be boats out here and their home values are not going to go up like my home value would."
The waterfront homeowners aren't eager to spend tens of thousands of dollars to build seawalls, but they believe they have to do it to protect their property. However, without association approval, they can't do it.
Emil Abdalla: "It's frustrating because it seems that I'm a tax-paying person on property, and I can't protect the property that I'm paying taxes on, so it's just washing into the water."
Further frustrating Emil, the association that is rejecting his seawall is responsible for protecting his property from the erosion and is not.
Emil Abdalla: "And they are supposed to maintain these alleged shorelines that do not have seawalls and things, and, although they have gotten their own survey, they claim nothing has changed."
Not believing an association can block a homeowner from protecting his own property, Emil then turned to Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Believe it or not, legally, they can block you from building a seawall, but they cannot block you from protecting your property, and, according to the association by laws, they do have to provide some protection for the shoreline. In this case, that means they have to pay to haul in dirt to replace the dirt that washes away."
Emil sent a letter asking the association for fill to be added to maintain his shoreline. In a letter they didn't respond to the request for dirt but did say, in principle, they agree with Emil that they would like to see changes to reduce or eliminate the restrictions on the shoreline, but that would require getting the association by laws revised.
Emil says right now the majority of members are opposed to allowing a seawall, but Howard says there may be a way to change that.
Howard Finkelstein: "All the homeowners in the association have to pay for the fill dirt. If you do it every couple of years that can get expensive, the cheaper thing to do is to allow the homeowners that live on the water to pay to build seawalls themselves. Taking money out of peoples's pockets who don't live on the water may get a few people to change their vote."
Emil Abdalla: "Without doing much here, where the grass is not running over here, if you just step on it, it easily breaks away. You can find crevasses and things that it just slowly and surely over time rushes away, and that's land that will never come back."
Patrick Fraser: "To get a seawall, Emil needs the approval of two-thirds of his neighbors. In some associations it only requires a simple majority. Pay attention to these types of association issues, a change could take away something you like and it can cost you money, or, in Emil's case, a change to the by laws could save homeowners some money."
Problems eroding your good nature? Don't hit a wall. Contact us, we'll try to fill in the missing pieces, and we don't need a two-thirds vote to do anything.
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