Homeowner looks to Olympia for help with fence

Twin Lakes resident Erick Hall doesn’t expect Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, or the state legislature to erase his legal problems with the Twin Lakes Home Owners Association — problems that stem from several feet of natural wood fence along the lakefront that hems his property.

He does, however, hope a bill introduced by Miloscia on Jan. 18 will make it easier for future homeowners to put fences around lakes or ponds to keep children from falling into the water.

Miloscia called the bill, House Bill 2490, a “no-brainer.”

“This is one of these issues that you say you can’t believe that someone is preventing someone from putting up a fence to protect a child,” he said.

Hall testified for the bill before the judiciary committee in Olympia last Friday. Miloscia said he is confident the bill will move out of committee. “It has bipartisan support,” he said. “Anyone who supports protecting children would support this bill.”

Hall and the home owners association have been meeting since he built the fence in 1999. He said he had verbal approval, but concedes he didn’t have written approval — a covenant requirement for putting up fences in the Twin Lakes neighborhood.

Greg Eklund, president of the Twin Lakes Home Owners Association, did not return a call to the Mirror, but the association always has stood firm on its covenants.

Hall said he built the fence to keep his now 3-year-old son from wandering too close to the edge of a wooden bulkhead that rises a couple feet out of the lake water. He said he was concerned his son or his son’s friends, who visit to play regularly, might fall into the lake.

Association covenants don’t prohibit fences from being built, but they do require advance written approval. Hall met with the association’s aesthetics committee, the chairman of which told him the fence shouldn’t be a problem.

Hall said he waited three or four weeks for written approval, but by the long July 4 weekend, he hadn’t heard back from the association.

He went ahead and built his fence — without written approval.

“I had no reason to think there would be any problem whatsoever,” he said. “Immediately, there was comment.”

That’s when two years of communication breakdowns began between Hall and the homeowners association, ultimately leading to a lawsuit.

“Each time, I think it’s dead, then it rears its ugly head again,” Hall said. “I had every expectation there was going to be no problem.”

About the time the association began threatening legal action, Hall started looking at legislation and state law.

He discovered state law requires homeowners to put fences around swimming pools, so he found it odd that he couldn’t install a fence to protect someone from falling into the lake.

He contacted Miloscia to see if there was anything that could be changed in state law that would compel homeowners associations to cooperate with safety measures.

House Bill 2490 says that an association cannot prohibit a property owner from erecting a temporary fence near open water to protect children, though the bill allows for association approval of construction and design.

The legislation wouldn’t affect Hall’s lawsuit, but he said he hopes, if it passes, it will give other homeowners the opportunity to install fences for protection.

“I think there’s a hole in (my) ability to protect my child from what I deem to be a definite threat,” he said. “There needs to be legislation to compel them to cooperate.”

Miloscia said he was honored to introduce the bill to the House of Representatives.

“A citizen bringing something to a legislator, that doesn’t happen very much,” he said. “Most people get cynical and go home. Erick’s making calls. He’s thrown himself into it.”

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