By Suzan E. Kurdak
When Bonnell Patrick bought the 4,138-square-foot home at 1912 Marsh Wren Court at auction five years ago, he thought he could turn the dwelling into his family’s dream home. With a rear addition to the lakefront home, he increased the square footage of his house to 7,600 feet. But his dreams have since become nightmarish, as he finds himself pitted in paperwork and frustrated that the deed-restricted community in which he lives often collides with his residential vision.
Patrick and his wife went before Ocoee elected officials at last week’s city commission meeting to seek approval for a variance to permit a shed — one that was already constructed — under a wood deck they recently added. While the couple had received approval to build the deck, they extended it an extra eight feet and then enclosed the structure — also something they did not get permission for prior.
City Planner Mike Rumer explained that the property is on Lake Johio and contains wetlands and per code, the 100-year flood plain requires a 25-foot dedicated conservation easement. The structure the Patricks built is located within the buffer easement.
“We didn’t know,” Patrick said. “I closed in the bottom to have a storage shed. We tried to get a permit, but they said we were on conservation area.”
Commissioner Joel Keller said he has served on a HOA board for 17 years. He explained that while he liked the idea of where the owners built the shed, he had a problem with the fact that they did not seek HOA approval for the extension first.
“If I approve the variance, you still need a permit, still need to be up to code and need HOA to approve it because you’re in a deed-restricted community,” Keller said. “Everything’s been done without HOA or city approval, and one does not override the other. You need both.”
An attorney representing the Willows on the Lake community was also in attendance at the meeting and shared that over the years, the owners have made many modifications to the house without first receiving proper approvals or permits. The deed-restrictions do not allow for a shed on the property, he said.
“Me and my wife went to the HOA,” Patrick said. “We were told, whatever the city approves, we approve.”
Keller said: “This is where the problem is — you enclosed without approval, and not even to do an extension. You did not do your homework.”
Patrick said: “The HOA doesn’t want us there. We’ve been hated ever since we moved there. I fought for my country — got no respect since we’ve been there.”
Commissioner Rusty Johnson said, “Sir, you still have to follow and live by the rules.”
Commissioner John Grogan asked the attorney if the family had a copy of the HOA restrictions, and if not, to furnish them with one.
Patrick said they “were given nothing, not even a key to the place or code to the gate.”
Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said, “I’m sorry you feel unwelcomed by the community, but it comes down to what we have control of.”
Grogan made the motion to deny the variance but approve the deck to its original plans. Grogan, Johnson and Wilsen voted in favor with the Board of Adjustments’ recommendation to deny, while Keller and Mayor Scott Vandergrift voted in opposition. Both men said they felt they could approve the variance to enclose the structure if it was brought back to the original size of the deck.
In other business, the commission:
• held three first readings including an ordinance to amend the Ocoee Code of Ordinances in regard to water conservation for landscape irrigation, system design, installation standards and efficient plumbing requirements. Additionally, elected officials heard an ordinance to amend temporary reduction of road, fire, police and recreational park and deferral of road impact fee payments. Lastly, a first reading to amend an ordinance on fire department and building department plan review fees for commercial projects was discussed. A second reading and public hearing will be held for these three ordinances on June 17.
• agreed to include a flat fee for additional lien searches when multiple units and addresses exist under one parcel.
• approved a request to allow homeowner Ladda Blanks at 2702 Kemos Landing, a variance to place a swimming pool with screen enclosure with a setback of 40 feet from the mean high-water line instead of 50 feet.
• listened to concerns regarding Ocoee’s police vehicles from resident Gary Haskell of Lakewood Manor.
• was visited by Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, who addressed the commissioners regarding shared fire services and the potential increase in fees.
The commission voted by consensus to approve the following:
• approved a contract with Dewitt Excavating Inc. for $32,532 for Peach Lake Manor drainage improvements.
• agreed to a change order for $35,751 for a reclaimed water main extension project along McCormick Road and Ocoee-Apopka Road.
• accepted the Central Florida Fire Consortium and facility sublicense agreement that will allow fire department personnel to attend technical fire-training classes at consortium member discounted fees.