One of the many benefits of living in our neighborhood is the quality and harmony of our homes surrounded by an established wooded environment. This aesthetic quality has been preserved over the last sixty years through covenants that run with the land and legally bind all residents. It is the combination of these covenants, plus the friendliness of neighbors working together, which make our neighborhood such a nice place to live.
The primary purpose of the Covenants is to preserve and enhance property values throughout the Wood Acres neighborhood by enforcing consistent architectural and landscape design standards for homeowners implementing improvements to their property and homes. These guidelines are intended to provide guidance to homeowners considering renovations about the Committee’s likely interpretation of the Covenant standards. These Guidelines are not hard and fast rules, and the Committee may exercise discretion in the application of these Guidelines in the particular circumstances of any particular application, taking into account special conditions of topography, foliage, lot plan or safety. The Committee understands that it cannot predict the structural, design and material innovations that will be presented in applications in the years to come. However, certain issues have come up with enough frequency in recent years that we have tried, for the sake of applicants and their neighbors, to identify key issues. It is our belief that everyone will benefit if more of the Covenants Committee’s thought processes are recorded.
These Guidelines encourage the use of qualified architects, design professionals, and builders to create sensitively designed home improvements throughout the neighborhood using quality building materials and appropriately crafted details and construction standards. PLEASE REVIEW THESE COVENANTS AND GUIDELINES WITH YOUR ARCHITECT AND/OR CONTRACTOR PRIOR TO THE SUBMISSION OF YOUR APPLICATION TO THE COVENANTS COMMITTEE. Applicants often find that an early stage review of these covenants with their architect and/or contractor results in a better design plan and greatly expedites the Application and construction process.
II. BASIC PROCEDURES
A. Covenants Committee. Several covenants govern the permissible improvements, which can be made on a Wood Acres lot. In order to ensure compliance with these covenants, the Board of the Wood Acres Citizens Association has created a Covenants Committee composed of current Wood Acres homeowners to review and approve all proposed improvements. This Committee meets regularly once a month to review and act on Applications submitted by homeowners for proposed improvements.
B. Standards. The Committee publishes these Guidelines to assist homeowners in determining in advance whether a contemplated addition or alteration is likely to be approved or disapproved by the Covenants Committee. These guidelines are intended as a broad statement of applicable standards. However, special conditions of topography, foliage, lot plan or safety may cause the Committee to grant exceptions to these Guidelines. The burden to establish grounds for granting such exception is upon the applicant. (Alternatively, a homeowner may use the procedure set forth in the twelfth article of the covenants to obtain an exception to the covenants). It is also the sole responsibility of the applicant to abide by all applicable local zoning and building code requirements. Lack of compliance may lead to legal action.
C. Types of Improvements. The following improvements are representative (but not inclusive) of projects requiring approval by the Covenants Committee: fences, landscape wall installations, major regrading and landscaping of lots, decks, conversion of garages to living space, conversion of screened porches to living space, new porch entrances, one and two story additions, freestanding structures such as garages, sheds, play structures or tree houses exceeding 10 feet in height, and other similar modifications to the structure involving the movement of exterior walls. Certain improvements are prohibited. For prohibited structures and limitations to improvements see Sections III. through VII.
D. Application and Consultation with Neighbors. Prior to the commencement of work on any structural change or improvement including those noted in II., C., a homeowner is required to submit an Application to the Committee and receive approval. In accordance with the FIRST Covenant and where the improvement involves major structural changes to the exterior of the house, the Committee requires that the applicant include with the Application photographs of the existing house and surrounding properties and architectural drawings prepared by a licensed architect or design professional in sufficient detail to enable the Committee to visualize clearly the proposed completed structure. The Committee encourages the applicant to provide any additional information, which he/she feels would be useful to the Committee in making its decision. In addition, the Committee requires evidence that the proposed improvement has been discussed with the homeowner’s neighbors who would be affected by the improvement and that any objections have been adequately documented. This usually includes neighbors on both sides and behind the homeowner and other nearby lots, which would view the proposed improvement, but can include other neighboring lots, depending upon the size of the improvement and the configuration and topography of the lots involved. Remember that your proposed construction may impact the value of your neighbor’s homes as well. Members of the Covenants Committee may ask to make a personal inspection of the premises and discuss the proposal with the applicant so as to better evaluate the Application request. Nearby neighbors may also be contacted for their views on the proposed improvement. The Committee will determine whether any objections or specific concerns of neighbors to the proposed changes are reasonable and justified.
- Applicant Responsibilities. It is the responsibility of each applicant to inform their neighbors who may have a direct view of the proposed home improvement, such that the affected neighbors have a thorough understanding of those improvements. The applicant shall meet and discuss any concerns the neighbors may raise during the review of such home improvements. Please allow your neighbors at least five (5) business days to review and consider your request prior to asking for their signature on your Application.
- Neighbor Responsibilities. It is the responsibility of each neighbor reviewing an Application to have a thorough understanding of how the applicant’s proposed home improvement may affect their property. If any concerns exist, the neighbors reviewing the proposed home improvements shall make note on the proposed Application or provide attached correspondence for the applicants’ and Committees’ review and action. Neighbors must advise the Covenants Committee during the Application process if they are opposed to specific elements of a proposed construction.
Figure 1 indicates the adjacent neighbors that should be consulted to review the applicants proposed construction or improvement. Signatures from those neighbors indicated are required on the Request for Approval of Improvements form in Section VIII.
E. Review Process. The Covenants Committee currently meets on the first Wednesday of each month. Applications should be submitted to the Chairperson of the Committee at least one week prior to the scheduled meeting. If no Applications are received one week prior to the monthly meeting, the meeting may be cancelled at the discretion of the Chairperson. Because the Committee may have questions or concerns about details in your Application, which might require the Application to be resubmitted at a subsequent meeting, you should submit your completed Application to the Committee at least forty days prior to the scheduled commencement of any construction (perhaps longer for major projects). After the Committee has reviewed an Application, it may approve the Application (with or without recommendations), disapprove the Application (with or without recommendations), or require further information from the applicant. The Committee will promptly communicate its decision to the applicant via telephone and confirm in writing via first-class mail. The Covenants Committee’s approval is for the purposes of the neighborhood legal covenants only, and is not an approval or substitute for compliance with local zoning and building codes or other requirements of the county or state; such requirements are the sole responsibility of the homeowner or applicant’s agent. The Architectural Covenants Committee approval is good for a period of twelve months; afterwards, if construction has not yet commenced, a new Application must be submitted. (Approvals received during November, 2004 will have until November, 2005 to commence construction.)
F. Maintenance. Maintenance of existing conforming structures and refurbishing to like-new condition does not require Covenant Committee approval. Replacement of windows or doors without modification to the existing structure does not require prior Committee approval. To the extent possible, window types and exterior dimensions shall be similar to existing window sizes and styles to harmoniously unify the new addition with the existing house.
III. GENERAL CRITERIA
A. Appearance. In evaluating an Application, the Committee gives due consideration to the appearance of the improvement as viewed from the public way and as viewed from all adjacent lots. Please be considerate of your neighbors and remember that the aesthetic quality of the home improvement should accrue to everyone’s property value. The basic requirement for any improvement is that it should attractively blend with the residence in question and with the other homes in the area. The choice of materials, quality of construction and exterior painting and other finishes must match or closely blend with the existing structure. Generally, the Committee evaluates the potential effect of any construction upon:
a. the immediately adjoining lots to the sides and rear;
b. other nearby lots, which also view the proposed improvement; and
c. the neighborhood as a whole, with particular reference to the preservation of
established trees and its open character and friendly atmosphere.
B. Debris. The homeowner must ensure that construction will cause a minimum of inconvenience to his/her neighbors and other members of the community. If a dumpster is required in connection with the project, the dumpster (where possible) must be located in the homeowner’s driveway. In situations where a dumpster needs to be located on the street, the dumpster must be located as close to the curb as possible and may not obstruct traffic. Such dumpster must be marked with reflectors at both ends to improve visibility at night. Arrangements must be made by the homeowner to avoid overflow of the dumpster and removal of debris on a regular basis. Where no dumpster is used, the homeowner must take the necessary steps to have debris kept in one location, preferably off the street, and collected on a regular basis. Also, where possible, the homeowner must encourage the contractors to park in front of the homeowner’s house, without blocking the street or interfering with the neighbors’ access to their homes.
C. Hours of Work. Exterior construction is often loud and can constitute a nuisance to neighbors. Montgomery County law, as of November 2004, permits construction activity, including roofing, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays and 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekends. However, as a matter of courtesy, homeowners are urged to restrict loud construction activity (e.g., hammering, operation of motorized equipment, etc.) until after 8:00 a.m. on weekdays.
D. Construction Schedule. The applicant and contractor are required to establish the construction schedule (tentative start and tentative finish dates) and list these dates on the Application for the neighbor’s and Committee’s review. The applicant will advise the contractor of the work hours in section C. above and that applicant and contractor shall promptly complete the work so as to minimize disruption to the neighborhood.
IV. FENCES AND LANDSCAPE WALLS
In general the Committee encourages the use of hedges and other planted vegetation such as bushes, shrubs and trees to define borders, but acknowledges that in some cases residents may prefer fences for safety reasons.
- A. Fences.
- Height Limitations. Fences will be limited to 60 inches in height.
- Fences must not extend into the front yard (i.e. closer to the street than the front of the house).
- Corner lots must not contain a fence that extends closer to the curb than the front face of the house on the adjoining lot.
- In order to present a harmonious appearance to the neighborhood, owners shall endeavor to erect fences that are compatible with those already existing in the immediate area.
- Fences must be made of natural materials. Picket or rail fences, in natural finish or painted to match or blend with the color scheme, shall be approved. Stockade or shadowbox fences are strongly discouraged, since such fencing inhibits the “open” character of the neighborhood.
- Chain link fencing, light wire fencing are prohibited.
- Facing. Fences must be constructed so that the finished side faces the neighbor’s property. The Committee encourages fences that look finished on both sides.
- Landscape Walls.
- General. The same principles of location applicable to fences apply to above-grade walls. Retaining walls are also subject to approval by the Committee.
- Retaining walls should blend in with the adjacent landscaping. Walls greater than 4 feet in height should be tiered or bantered to reduce the visual impact of the structure upon adjacent neighbors.
- Type. Natural weathered fieldstone or brick are strongly favored for all walls.
- Treated landscape timbers are generally favored for smaller scaled walls provided that any portion thereof that is visible from the front of the property or by any neighbor with a direct line of sight into the applicant’s lot is partially shielded by shrubbery or landscaping.
- Above-grade exposed cinder block and exposed concrete block are prohibited.
- Simulated stone landscape blocking is disfavored relative to genuine stone; however newer technologies for synthetic stone materials will be considered on a case by case basis.
V. STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN EXISTING DWELLINGS
A. General. The design and the materials used on all structural changes to existing dwellings must be compatible with those of the existing house. The Committee subjects a proposal to the following considerations: (1) size and location; (2) proximity to the lot lines; (3) topography; (4) existing foliage; and (5) distance from neighboring homes.
B. Conversion of Garage. The design for the conversion shall be compatible with that of the existing house.
C. Enclosure of Screened Porches and Entrance Additions. The foregoing principles of care described in section V., D. are applicable here.
D. One & Two Story Additions
- Building Elevations
- Expansive and uninterrupted (bare) exterior walls are strongly disfavored. The applicant shall carefully design the addition to minimize the extent to which exterior walls are empty of windows; where interior design renders exterior windows impracticable (e.g. kitchen cabinets, refrigerator or range) other means of exterior architectural articulation (e.g. trellis for plantings) may be requested by the Committee to add visual relief to the elevation.
- Additions shall be supported by continuous foundation walls. Discontinuous foundations, exposed masonry piers or treated landscape timbers supporting additions, with unenclosed space beneath the proposed addition, are prohibited.
- Second story additions shall have gutter lines that match the gutter lines of the existing second floor. The use of dormers and intersecting gables should be used to provide the desired interior wall height.
- Windows & Doors (Includes Replacement of Existing Windows)
- To the extent possible, window types and exterior dimensions shall be similar to existing window sizes and styles to harmoniously unify the new addition with the existing house.
- Windows with true divided lights or simulated divided lights are in the Committee’s view, most consistent with the Wood Acres colonial style. Muntins installed internal to insulated glass windows are disfavored, unless exterior and interior applied muntins are provided to replicate simulated divided lights. Muntins should be colored to match color of existing window muntins.
- Fixed and casement windows are permitted, provided they are broken down into smaller glass lights by muntins as described in V.,D., 2., b.
- Shutters on the front elevation of the house should be provided at windows to closely match original shutters. Shutters or window ornamentation on side and rear elevations of the house are generally favored.
- Large expansive (picture) windows or doors without glass dividers are disfavored.
- Glass doors with true divided lights or simulated divided lights are strongly favored as described in V.,D., 2., b.
- Exterior Elevation Materials
- Brick to match the existing brick size is favored. Natural undressed stone is favored as accent. Synthetic stone materials are disfavored.
- Finished wood and cement board clapboard siding are permitted. Aluminum or vinyl clapboard siding are also permitted, provided aluminum and vinyl extrusions or other components are not exposed at the perimeter of doors and windows, base of siding, roof eaves and corners of house, and the installed siding authentically matches wood clapboard siding.
- Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems (EIFS) or stucco is disfavored.
- Latticework at crawlspaces is prohibited, unless concealed by shrubbery.
- The slope of the roof for entry porches and additions should approximate the slope of the existing main roof structure where feasible.
Main roof should be asphalt, slate, fiberglass or simulated slate shingles made from rubber or fiberglass to closely approximate the texture of the original Wood Acres shingle roof. Smaller roofed areas such as entry and side porches and projecting bay windows should be the same as main roof or copper.
- All exposed flashings shall be either pointed into brick or stepped to match the vertical and horizontal mortar joints of the brick. Copper flashing is favored.
- The slope of the roof for entry porches and additions should approximate the slope of the existing main roof structure where feasible.
- Front entry steps and walks from driveways and the street built with natural stone and/or brick are favored.
- Mechanical & Electrical Equipment
- Exterior air conditioning, heating and other mechanical units should be located at the rear or side of the property and be shielded from view from any public way by use of shrubbery or other vegetation.
- Electric service, telecommunication service panels and water meters should be installed in discreet locations on the side elevations of the house and mounted as low as possible relative to adjacent grade consistent with prudent utility practices.
- Radon reduction ventilation shall be integrated into the addition and vented discreetly to minimize the public visibility of the system.
- Permanent floodlights mounted on the house and directed towards the street or an adjacent lot are disfavored. Pathway lighting is encouraged in lieu of floodlights.
- To the extent practicable, satellite dishes or other similar antennae mounted within the lot, on the house or in view from the street or any neighbor’s lot shall be located and camouflaged to reduce or eliminate the visual impact that the antennae may have upon the neighborhood.
- Permanent air conditioning and heating units protruding from walls of the structure are prohibited.
E. DECKS, PATIOS, TERRACES AND SWIMMING POOLS
- Large decks due to their size and height relative to adjacent grade shall be viewed by the Committee as a permanent structure and designed appropriately as an integral feature of the house. The applicant should consider appropriate design strategies to visually harmonize the appearance of the addition to the existing structure (e.g. use of appropriate exterior finish materials to match those of the existing house may be preferable in lieu of treated landscape timbers). Use of proportionately mature shrubbery or trees providing privacy for both the applicant and all neighbors with a line of sight towards the deck may be required to mitigate the visual impact of the deck.
- Patios and terraces on grade should use natural stone or brick as the patio surface. Patios shall be screened with shrubbery or trees providing privacy for both the applicant and all neighbors with a line of sight towards the patio.
- Poured-in-place concrete finishes are disfavored for patio and terrace floors.
- Latticework at underside of elevated decks is prohibited, unless concealed by shrubbery.
- Above-grade swimming pools are prohibited.
- Concrete (stamped or otherwise), blacktop, brick, and landscape pavers are favored.
G. TREES AND LANDSCAPING
- Tree removal does not require Committee approval. Tree removal and site clearing associated with new additions requires approval by both neighbors and the Committee. Preservation of existing trees shall be a positive factor in the Committee’s evaluation of any home improvement. The Application shall identify all trees to be removed, including specimen, diameter and height for the neighbors and Committees review, such that the neighbors are well advised of the impact that the removed vegetation may have on their lot (e.g. increased sunlight, reduced privacy).
- All drainage pipes extending beyond three feet from house downspouts to the driveway or street shall be constructed of durable piping material, concealed below grade and terminated such that no water flows onto adjacent lots.
- Drainage pipes shall not terminate onto adjacent lots.
- Regrading of existing site shall not direct water from a homeowner’s property onto an adjacent lot.
A. In General. Due to the size of the Wood Acres’ lots, only one outbuilding (including an existing garage) is allowed.
B. Small Attached Sheds.
- General. Sheds attached to the house are generally preferred over the free standing sheds referred to in Section VI., C. The design and materials used in the construction of the shed shall be compatible with the existing house.
- Location. Sheds shall be placed at the rear of the house and properly screened by shrubbery. Sheds attached to the sides of the house, which are visible from the public way are disfavored.
- Color. The shed shall be painted to match the trim on the house, unless the shed is constructed of brick or stone.
- Size and Design. The Committee recognizes that such factors as zoning setbacks from lot lines, proximity to an adjacent house, topography, and foliage require flexibility of size and design. Generally, the smaller the shed, the more likely the Committee will approve the project.
C. Small Free-Standing Sheds.
General. Please note sheds are subject to zoning setback requirements. Free-standing sheds set within a lot should be carefully planned since these structures are highly visible to adjacent homeowners. Sheds with architectural character are favored over more utilitarian looking structures.
- Size and Height Limitations. The dimensions of these sheds must not exceed reasonable requirements for storage or greatly exceed the size of sheds in the immediate vicinity of the house.
- Location. The shed may not extend closer to the front yard than the rear line of the house, except on corner lots. Corner lots will be considered on a case-to-case basis, but in no event shall approval be granted for any shed which would be located closer to the curb than the front face of the house on the adjoining lot. The screening of sheds by use of appropriate shrubbery is required and must be outlined in the Application.
- Color. Sheds shall be painted to match the trim on the house or otherwise to blend in with surrounding structures.
- Maintenance. Owners shall maintain all sheds to prevent public nuisance and unsightly appearance.
- Prefabricated Sheds. The Committee will consider applications for prefabricated sheds where the shed is finished with wood or a material which provides the appearance of wood.
D. Children’s Play Structures.
Although temporary play structures less than 10 feet high are exempt from Covenants approval, the selection of children’s play structures should be carefully planned since these structures are highly visible to adjacent homeowners. The color of play structures exceeding 10 feet in height, including canvas tenting, should be selected for compatibility with vegetation and to blend with the environment.
VII. REPLACEMENT OF EXISTING DWELLINGS
Following the occurrence of substantial damage or destruction to an existing residence by fire or other force majeure event, Applications in accordance with the Covenants and these Guidelines shall be approved for rebuilding substantially the same house.
In the event the owner desires to demolish and rebuild an existing structurally sound house, the owner is required to retain a licensed architect to prepare the design consistent with the spirit of the original Wood Acres house plans and in accordance with these Covenants and these Guidelines for the adjacent neighbor’s and Covenants Committee’s review.
In deference to the size of Wood Acres lots and the close proximity of houses to each other within the neighborhood, the design for the new house shall maintain the general scale and character of the pre-existing house with the understanding that the overall size of the house may be enlarged in square footage in accordance with the local zoning ordinance and in accordance with the Covenants and these Guidelines. Floor-to-floor heights are limited in accordance with these Guidelines and take precedence over the local zoning ordinance relative to building height. The proposed design for a house to replace the pre-existing house shall abide by the Covenants and these Guidelines contained herein. The proposed design for the new house shall be presented to the Committee with the originally prepared architectural drawings of the pre-existing house. These original architectural drawings shall be used as a reference for the Committee relative to evaluation of house location within lot, floor-to-floor height, overall massing of the new structure, scale and proportion of doors and windows, slope of roofs and use of building materials.
A. IF THE FLOOR AREA FOR THE NEW HOUSE EXCEEDS THAT OF THE PREEXISTING HOUSE, THEN THE APPLICANT SHALL DESIGN THE HOUSE SUCH THAT:
- The length of the front elevation shall not exceed the length of the pre-existing house’s front elevation (including the pre-existing front porch) unless setbacks are provided that visually breaks down the volume of the house.
- The length of the side elevation shall not exceed the length of the pre-existing house’s side elevation unless the new elevation is broken down into smaller modules composed of a pair of pitched roofs to match the width of the pre-existing side elevation and pitched roof.
- Excessively long side and rear elevations without exterior wall setbacks between the first and second floors, or such elevations without the use of dormers and other means of architectural details are disfavored.
- The floor-to-floor height shall match the pre-existing house’s floor-to-floor height.
- For lots with garage basements, the basement floor elevation may be set at a lower elevation than that of the pre-existing basement floor, provided the new basement floor elevation is higher than the adjacent street elevation. The first floor elevation of the new house may not be set at a higher elevation than the pre-existing first floor elevation.
- The existing lot grading may be revised provided no drainage is shed onto adjacent lots, and privacy is maintained between the applicant’s lot and all adjacent properties.
B. TO SATISFY THE APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN, THE APPLICANT SHALL SUBMIT COMPLETE ARCHITECTURAL FLOOR PLANS AND EXTERIOR ELEVATIONS TOGETHER WITH A THREE-DIMENSIONAL PHYSICAL OR COMPUTER GENERATED MODEL AND/OR RENDERINGS SHOWING ALL ABUTTING EXISTING NEIGHBOR HOUSES AND SURROUNDING GRADE AND LANDSCAPING FOR THE NEIGHBORS’ AND COMMITTEE’S REVIEW. THE COMMITTEE MAY REQUIRE, DEPENDING UPON THE SCALE OF THE PROPOSED DESIGN, ADDITIONAL DESIGN DOCUMENTATION TO COMPLETE THE REVIEW OF THE APPLICATION.
Wood Acres Covenants Committee: Revised November, 2004