UNPUBLISHED Arizona Appellate Court decision (December 10, 2015).
This case involved a dispute between homeowners (“Owners”) and their homeowners association (“Association”) over an addition that Owners constructed to their separate interest property located within the common interest community operated by the Association. The governing documents for the Association (the CC&Rs) contained a restriction that prohibited the construction of structures that exceeded one story in height (exclusive of a basement). The CC&Rs also provided that no construction could be commenced on a property without the prior written approval of the Association’s Architectural Review Committee (“ARC”).
Before commencing construction of their home, Owners submitted plans to the ARC that included an interior staircase and bridge that was located at the same elevation as an exterior roof deck. The Association’s ARC rejected Owners’ plan because it concluded that the bridge that was reflected in the plans constituted a prohibited “second story element” that was in violation of the CC&Rs. Owners subsequently modified their plans by eliminating the bridge and the interior stairs. The area that was originally designed as the bridge was changed to be a “clerestory area.” Association’s ARC then approved the modified design. When Owners began construction of the home they deviated from the approved plans and, rather than constructing the “clerestory area” that was approved by the ARC, they created a new second-story room in the same area. After the Association first learned about Owners’ deviation from the approved plans about a year later, it demanded that Owners removed the portion of the structure that violated the CC&Rs. The Owners refused to remove the second story element and the Association filed an action seeking an injunction prohibiting construction in violation of the CC&Rs. The trial court ruled in favor of the Association and directed Owners to remove the second floor element that had been constructed in violation of the plans that had been approved by the ARC. The Owners filed an appeal.
On appeal, Owners argued that the language contained in the CC&Rs relative to the issue was a height restriction (the CC&Rs prevented a structure that was more than one story) and not a limit on the number of stories a structure may have. The appellate court interpreted the restriction in question by applying the ordinary meaning of the words to the provision, and concluded that the meaning of the applicable provision was intended to restrict the height of a building to one story (exclusive of a basement). Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment that directed the Owners to remove the second story element that had been improperly constructed and to bring their project into compliance with the plans that had been approved by the ARC.
See case decision: Pinnacle_Peak_Ranchos_Prop__