02/25/14 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD A NEIGHBORHOOD MOAT WITH DEED RESTRICTIONS Neighborhood Moat“Instead of throwing lawsuits around, the people in River Oaks should start a Buy Protect Sell program. Buy pieces of land around their subdivision as they come up for sale. Protect those pieces of land by putting restrictive covenants on them (height regulations in particular, since their concern has been the proliferation of high rises in their area). Then sell the properties with the restrictions in place. B/P/S has been used for about a decade by environmentalists elsewhere in the country. It could be used to preserve the low-rise character around a neighborhood. The drawback is that it can be costly for poorer neighborhoods, but River Oaks could well afford it.” [ZAW, commenting on Neighbors File Suit To Stop Hines San Felipe Tower; Silo Sightseeing] Illustration: Lulu

10/30/13 10:00am

HOW EASY IS IT TO GET OUT OF IDYLWOOD? A reader wonders if subdividing lots might get you new subdivision rules: “There is a great big ole sign [pictured at right] in the vacant lot at 6636 Meadowlawn in Idylwood. It is a notice of a request to replat the lot into two single family lots. It is plenty large enough, being one full lot and parts of the two lots on either side. As it stands, I can understand why they’d want to replat. The company that bought the property is Nadco LLC. That in itself is not so strange but what is strange is that the sign also says that the two new lots will create a new subdivision known as Idylwood Partial Replat #1. . . . I’m wondering if the ‘new subdivision’ would be subject to Idylwood deed restrictions or if they could totally disregard setbacks and lot lines among other things.” [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

11/09/12 1:17pm

The verdicts handed down this week in the court case connected to a dispute between the owners of 3 bars carved out of the former Settegast Kopf funeral home on Kirby Dr. at Colquitt, their landlord, and residents of the subdivision that surrounds it are a tad complicated. As a result of the jury decisions, neighborhood homeowners are now asking the judge to force 2 of the bars — Roak and Hendricks Pub — to stop selling alcohol. One of the jurors in the case offers Swamplot readers a detailed explanation of the decision:

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05/07/12 3:16pm

JUDGE TO HOA: YOUR POTBELLIED NEIGHBOR CAN STAY 60-lb. porcine Spring resident Wilbur Sardo will not be exiled from The Thicket at Cypresswood subdivision — because his presence in the neighborhood does not violate the local deed restrictions, a Harris County judge ruled today. The pig’s attorney, HOA law specialist Mitchell Katine, tells Chronicle reporter Erin Mulvaney that the decision in the lawsuit filed by the animal’s owners marks “the first time a Vietnamese pot belly pig has been recognized as a pet in court.” The neighborhood’s community improvement association had argued that Wilbur counted as livestock, and was therefore prohibited. The Sardo family began an extensive media campaign around its quest to keep Wilbur after receiving a notice from the association last year that it would be subject to fines of $200 a day if it continued to keep their pet at home. [NewsWatch; previously on Swamplot] Photo: iWilbur.com

11/02/11 8:18pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: COMES WITH THE LAND “If you take the Houston blinders off for a minute, you’ll realize that ‘deed restrictions protect property values’ and ‘zoning distorts property values’ are the same statement. Other things that ‘distort’ property values are: having a functioning police force so you have a reasonable certainty that a band of pirates won’t come steal everything you own; having roads to connect your property to other things; being located in a country with a functioning economy; public support of decent schools; a public health system that prevents outbreaks of Ebola; lack of a brutal murderous dictatorial regime; and not living downwind of a sewage treatment plant. Which of these are ‘evil planning’ vs ‘sensible government’ is, of course, determined by the political views of the speaker.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: Keep Houston Cheap]

08/31/11 12:20pm

“Veterinary experts” are now “standing by to testify” in the lawsuit filed yesterday against a Spring HOA on behalf of Houston’s best-known potbellied pig, declares the lawyer hired by the pig’s owners, Missy and Alex Sardo. What’ll those experts say? That Wilbur Sardo, the 60-lb. pet with close to 5,000 Facebook friends — and now a live webcam showdoesn’t count as livestock, and therefore isn’t prohibited from living with his owners by the deed restrictions of the Thicket at Cypresswood neighborhood.

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07/19/11 1:12pm

Pot-bellied pig Wilbur Sardo now has more than 3300 friends on Facebook, a Twitter feed, a growing YouTube channel, and an online petition with more than 500 supporting signatures, but still only 17 days left before he’ll have to find a new home outside The Thicket at Cypresswood subdivision in Spring. Owner Missy Sardo says she was told at an HOA meeting and over the phone last week that she could keep her household pet if she got 51 percent of residents to sign a petition in the pig’s favor. But a certified letter Sardo received over the weekend indicates that the neighborhood’s board of directors has decided that its “initial decision [to banish the pig] will stand.” The neighborhood’s deed restrictions prohibit “animals, livestock, poultry, reptiles, or insects of any kind.” Household pets, defined as “domestic animals commonly and traditionally kept in homes as pets” are allowed, as long as they do not include “any wild, semi-wild, or semi-domesticated animal.”

Video: Wilbur Sardo

07/14/11 6:06pm

The almost here, the already here, and the soon-to-be-departed:

  • Opening Soon: City inspection issues having been conquered, Hubcap Grill‘s new Heights-ish outpost in Shady Acres is now aiming for an opening “mid/late” next week, tweets burger-slinger Ricky Craig. The converted drive-up at 1133 W. 19th St. is just around the corner from Cedar Creek. Plenty more patio seating in back.
  • Already Open: So sorry you missed the christenings, but the nightclub, restaurant-bar, and wading pool carved out of the former Settegast Kopf funeral home at 3320 Kirby, have been open and holding events for a week or 2 already. That place wearing its paneling on the outside is Hendricks Pub and Eatery. Roak is the nightclub; the atrium pool has its own name: Rush. The bars and their neighbors in the David Crockett subdivision immediately to the west will have plenty of time to become acquainted with each other before their court date next May. Some local residents have filed suit against the bars’ owners, claiming the clubs are in violation of local deed restrictions:

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10/27/10 4:40pm

Included in the $1,470,000 asking price of this just-finished 3-bedroom, 3-1/2 bath house in the northern reaches of Boulevard Oaks: a pair of doors from a 19th-century house near Osaka; that Chinese wine pot (of similar vintage) sitting at the end of the central hall by the kitchen; a 46” Sony Edgelit TV; those planters on the back terrace; the dining room table and chairs; and of course the coffee table, upholstered pieces, and Buddha in the living room. “Many of my buyers have relocated to Houston without anything to sit on,” explains developer Carol Isaak Barden.

Barden’s house replacement at 1916 Banks St. is the 15th project she’s built to sell — if you count each townhouse in her earlier multi-unit ventures separately — and the second one designed by Seattle architect Rick Sundberg. Sundberg, who’s since left to start a new firm with his daughter, was still with Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen when he designed Barden’s Wabi Sabi house a few years ago (they’re now down to Olson Kundig without him). Barden called this house Wabi Sabi II until she started spending a lot of time coordinating the work of local designers and craftsmen on the project.

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05/10/10 10:53am

STUCK IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOOD SAND TRAPS The Ohio investor who bought up 3 Houston community golf courses over the last decade, then sold the one in Quail Valley to Missouri City a couple of years ago, is running into a few obstacles in his attempts to sell the other 2 to developers: “The latest roadblock came with a jury verdict late last year that would prohibit the use of the land that once served as the Inwood Forest Country Club for any purpose other than a golf course. . . . The Harris County jury found that the Inwood Forest golf property contained an ‘implied reciprocal negative easement,’ [Inwood Forest homeowners association member Julie] Grothues said. In plain English, that means that an owner of the course is bound to keep it as a course even though the original deed has no such restrictive covenant. The lawyer for the homeowners association argued that the course was an essential component of the neighborhood, and that allowing it to be cut up for development would irrevocably change the character of the community and the value of the homes.” Is Mark Voltmann’s game going any better at the shuttered Clear Lake Golf Club? “The deed for the Clear Lake property contains a restriction preventing owners from using it for anything but a golf course or recreational facility until 2021. Voltmann has filed suit to try to bust the deed restrictions. In theory, success could translate into a big payday, as a portion of the property has good commercial potential. But the Inwood verdict is looming. If it stands up, homeowners could use the same argument to stymie him again.” [Houston Chronicle; listing]

02/24/10 1:29pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE “TRICKLE-DOWN” THEORY OF HOUSTON REDEVELOPMENT “. . . Historic Districts suck and deed restriction, too. They pit neighbor against neighbor, creating the distraction that will keep residents from organizing across the city and taking aim at the real predators. Meanwhile, the money behind the bulldozers is laughing till they pee their pants.” [finness, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Foundations of Wayne]

02/02/10 3:25pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LOTS CLEARED BY UNFORCED ERROR “In my neighborhood there is one empty lot where a developer purchased a really lovely old home, deemed it a “teardown,” and THEN found out that deed restrictions prohibited subdividing the [really] large lot. . . . On the other hand, if the potential buyers of the land in my neighborhood had done their due diligence at the beginning (when the estate was being probated the buyers were lining up, it was nuts), perhaps the old ranch house would have been renovated, or a new single home would have gone up, appropriate for the neighborhood. Now the land is empty save the old citrus trees and tumbled down brick wall at the egdes of the yard. And the owners get to pay property taxes based on their inflated valuation of the land, and keep it mowed, too. Maybe the present day lending restraints will prohibit such magical thinking by developers in our old neighborhoods. Meanwhile there are plenty of undeveloped lots laying around because the original plan didn’t quite work out the way the buyer intended.” [Karen, commenting on A Sunset Heights Lot Size Turf War]

01/11/10 4:24pm

Some neighbors of the Annunciation Orthodox School and cathedral in Montrose are not too happy about the institutions’ plans to build a parking lot on the site of an apartment complex at the corner of Yoakum and Marshall it tore down a year or so ago. But Clifford Pugh suspects even more pavement may be on the horizon:

Even though the lot is prohibited under the deed restrictions, representatives from the school told residents at a meeting last week they plan to proceed anyway. “Our interpretation is that the deed restrictions are not valid and not enforceable,” a school official said.

Actually, the deed restrictions allow the school to petition residents for an exemption. But that would set a precedent I believe the school doesn’t want to acknowledge. It owns several other homes in the area and I suspect officials are itching to tear them down in the future, too. Between the school and the church, they’ve already torn down the equivalent of a block-and-a-half of housing to make way for parking lots — but there’s always room for more.

Photo: Clifford Pugh

05/27/09 11:27am

Sure, Mary Ellen Carroll is gonna pick up this Sharpstown lot across from Bayland Park and the house on it and rotate the whole thing 180 degrees. Oh, and then there’s gonna be that hydroponic curtain-wall fencing system and the solar and geothermal systems and the wi-fi cloud and the fancy door hardware and the bees and all. Still gotta meet the local deed restrictions.

Video: Douglas Britt

01/03/08 12:58pm

Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every DayLakewood Church’s Joel Osteen, in Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Everyday, p. 289:

I remember as a young couple, Victoria and I found a home that we really liked. It was a run-down house but on a nice piece of property. And we knew it was for us. In the natural, it didn’t make a lot of sense. We were leaving a beautiful townhome. Yet we knew that’s what God wanted us to do. So we took a step of faith and we bought the run-down house. The day we closed on it, we were standing in the front yard and a Realtor stopped by and offered us much more than we had paid. We thought, “What’s going on?” We didn’t understand it. Come to find out, they were in the process of changing the deed restrictions in the neighborhood. And several years later, we sold that property for twice as much as we paid for it. That was God causing us to be at the right place at the right time.