By Kerry Fehr-Snyder
The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX, AZ -- What began as an effort to spruce up the paint job on a home has turned into a nasty neighborhood war filled with threats, name-calling and gossip.
The feud started more than a year ago in the 15-year-old Mountain Crest development near 44th Street and Chandler Boulevard but reached a crescendo in October when the homeowners sued a group of neighbors.
At issue is whether the homeowners, Tom and Patty Scanlan, violated the developer's original restrictions when they painted their two-story house burnt red more than two years ago. The neighborhood with 109 homes doesn't have a homeowners association and its design review committee has long been inactive.
But three neighbors who reprised the committee this year took matters into their own hands by filing a "notice of noncompliance" in March with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office against the Scanlans and their property at 15035 S. 45th Place.
"They can't do that because I was never declared in non-compliance and there's nothing in the CC&Rs specifically relating to color anyway," said Patty Scanlan, an original owner who has lived in the house since 1992. "This notice affects my property value if I ever want to sell."
She said she was inspired to paint her house red to remind her of the red rocks of Sedona, adding, "It just reminds me of Arizona."
Scanlan said her neighbors never told her they objected to her paint job, although she saw many of them gathering in their cul-de-sac talking about it.
"Of course, our neighbors were aghast, we were aghast, thinking, 'What have we done?' "
Scanlan and her husband then filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court in October against eight neighbors, demanding that they have the notice removed.
Weary of original paint job
While the suit winds its way through the courts, homeowners are passing their own judgments.
"I'm just sad, I'm very sad," said Sophia Rogers, who lives around the block in a house she painted lime green with purple trim last spring.
"I feel like I may have made a bad decision, but it was not malicious," she said. "No one came to me after to complain either."
Instead, Rogers said she was blindsided after attending a meeting under the guise of discussing neighborhood issues but the real agenda was to talk about the color of her house.
"I was tired of beige and you see a lot of green and purple buildings around here, so I thought it would look nice," she said.
Other neighbors apparently grew weary of their original paint jobs with several re-painting their homes darker shades of earth tones and one choosing a burnt orange. None got approval from their neighbors beforehand.
Rogers said she was disappointed with how the purple trim came out on her house, saying she wanted it to be more of a grayish purple.
Neighbors quickly nicknamed her house the "Easter egg house" on a Web site set up to discuss neighborhood issues. Someone else likened the red house to the childhood story "The Little Red Hen."
The Web site, www.mcowners.com, also generated comments that were far from neighborly.
"Once again, you show your ignorance," one person wrote anonymously. "How stupid. We don't need more ugly houses in our neighborhood."
Polka dot protest
Several neighbors also sounded off about a third homeowner who painted her house with polka dots, using the colors from the offending houses to make a statement. The house was soon repainted to a more neutral color.
"Sounds like the last guest (writer) has a big mouth and a vendetta," reads the post. "The polka dot house is just a stupid statement from someone who really does not care about the neighborhood."
The site administrator posted a comment in early October, asking everyone to be respectful of their neighbors when they file comments.
"Instead of constructive comments, it's turned out to be a free-for-all where anyone with an opinion can say whatever he or she wants," he wrote.But even offline, it's become increasingly difficult for neighbors.
Dorsey Tisdale, a neighbor who lives directly across from the Scanlans, said the mess has made him re-think his decision to move to a neighborhood without an HOA.
"This is why you want them. They do the dirty work," he said.
Tisdale, who is named as a defendant in the Scanlans' lawsuit, said he is opposed to all the unusual paint jobs because he fears they are affecting the neighborhood's property values.
The Scanlans' paint job also is affecting his enjoyment of his own house, he said.
"It's first thing I see every morning, last thing I see every night."
Homeowners on his cul-de-sac hesitate to wave "hello" when driving by, he said.
"It is difficult to live in a neighborhood with dissension because it creates ill will everywhere," he said.
The Arizona Republic