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Subject: PUBLIC VIEW definition for North Carolina
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AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/18/2021 9:55 AM  
Hi, all!
None of our documents define "public view." Does anyone know if North Carolina has a legal definition of public view? A neighbor is complaining about a few seed flats (for starting plants from seed) in another neighbor's backyard. The offended neighbor has to walk around her own house to a narrow corner and look pretty hard to see the seed flats. The seed flats aren't visible from the road or any neighbor's front yards. None of the other neighbors can see the seed flats from any vantage point on their property. By the way, the offended neighbor who can see the seed flats (but has misreported them as litter boxes) has an elevation that is about four feet higher than the seed flat gardening neighbor. Are the seed flats in "public view?"

I'm looking for a legal definition of public view in North Carolina. I'd be grateful if someone could point my in the right direction to find the answer.

Thank you, all! I love this group. I'm learning a lot and look forward to the day that I know enough to contribute answers. : - )
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4290


05/18/2021 10:19 AM  
Your state laws should be somewhere on the state's website, so you might start there.

That said, I hope your board isn't getting involved in this - this complaint is REALLY STOOPID! They're seed flats, so at some point they will go in the ground or a container (I'm a gardener and have used them for my own garden, usually putting them in a pop up greenhouse on my patio).

If you're the homeowner this neighbor's complaining about, tell her to go play in traffic! Complaining about junk cars, dog poop or half open trash bins with crap spilling out (this causing stink and attracting vermin) is a problem. AS long as the flats are neat, what's the problem?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2599


05/18/2021 11:23 AM  
I did a quick look at definitions, and many of them say that the viewer must be standing on a public street or sidewalk adjacent to the property. This would mean that Ms Nosy Neighbor is out of luck.

https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/exposed-to-public-view
https://www.hopb.co/north-carolina (searching for the term "public view" did not return any results)

This raises the question of whether "standing on a public street" would translate into "standing on a private street owned by the HOA" for purposes of this definition. It would make sense to me that it would translate that way, because you'd get silly results otherwise - but I'm not a lawyer.

I agree with Sheila that you should ignore this and maybe tell Ms Nosy to quit spying on her neighbor before she sees something that will really make her eyes pop.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/18/2021 11:25 AM  
Posted By AvaA on 05/18/2021 9:55 AM
Hi, all!
None of our documents define "public view." [snip]
I'm looking for a legal definition of public view in North Carolina. I'd be grateful if someone could point my in the right direction to find the answer.
Ha. Good one. My hat is off to AvaA for wanting to try to ensure the Board is on solid ground in agreeing or disagreeing that there is a violation here.

AvaA, can you please quote the part of your HOA's Bylaws or covenants that uses the phrase "public view"?

So far, my short answer is that this is generally not well-defined in North Carolina state law. What I am seeing, nationwide: The phrase "public view" might be defined in the context of certain criminal ordinances or statutes in North Carolina, but a HOA is not responsible for enforcing such ordinances or statutes. Still, if in fact your HOA has a covenant prohibiting unsightly anything in the public view, then maybe these definitions will give your Board some ideas on whether to issue a violation or not.

My first blush answer is the same as SheliaH's and CathyA3's: This complaint is dumb, frivolous and the neighbor is perhaps pathologically nosy.

I think CathyA3's lawinsider definition is one on which your Board might want to rely.

I will post a longer answer in a bit.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1601


05/18/2021 11:35 AM  
No, I would want to see something that says seed flats are a violation of the convents/ IMO, unless they are in violation, public view means nothing.
DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1689


05/18/2021 11:39 AM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 05/18/2021 11:35 AM
No, I would want to see something that says seed flats are a violation of the convents/ IMO, unless they are in violation, public view means nothing.


That's my thought too, are gardening items prohibited by your docs?

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/18/2021 11:42 AM  
-- Here's a follow-up to CathyA3's lawinsider definition:
https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/public-view

I think the above lawinsider.com web site address and definition is what the board should cite in telling the nosy neighbor that the HOA will not issue a violation for the seed flats. The Board should say that, according to the lawinsider.com definitions, in its humble opinion, it disagrees that the seed flats are in "public view." Let the nosy neighbor try to take the HOA and her gardening neighbor to court.


The following is, in my opinion, going to be not helpful to this HOA Board but to me, does demonstrate that using the lawinsider definitions above for "public view" is probably appropriate:

-- I searched North Carolina statutes and found no definition of "public view." Even if I had, it would probably have to be used in the context of the particulars of the statute section.

-- It's possible a city ordinance, where the OP lives, against unsightly xyz may define "public view," the same way a Salt Lake City ordinance did per this 2002 Utah appeals court decision: https://law.justia.com/cases/utah/supreme-court/2002/roberts2-cr.html (Noting: "Place open for public view" means an area capable of use or observance by persons from the general community, where an expectation for privacy for the activity engaged in by individuals is not reasonably justified.)

-- Here's how to search North Carolina appeals courts for "public view" (paste in your google search window):

"public view" site:https://law.justia.com/cases/north-carolina/supreme-court/

"public view" site:https://law.justia.com/cases/north-carolina/court-of-appeals/

-- You can also try this: "exposed to public view" "definition" site:https://law.justia.com/cases/
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/20/2021 11:19 PM  
Posted By DouglasK1 on 05/18/2021 11:39 AM
Posted By MaxB4 on 05/18/2021 11:35 AM
No, I would want to see something that says seed flats are a violation of the convents/ IMO, unless they are in violation, public view means nothing.


That's my thought too, are gardening items prohibited by your docs?


No, gardening items are not prohibited. We do prohibit the storage of waste materials (intended to cover the dumping of lawn clippings in the wooded areas of lot owners' property." The seed flats are covered under keeping "unsightly" items from public view. Our board can subjectively decide what's unsightly. Our management company said "public view" is any area that a person can see or a lot owner can see from inside or outside of his or her home. In reference to another topic regarding public view, the community manager said public view applies to the view from one lot owner's window or yard into another lot owner's window. I questioned that specifically in reference to viewing (and recording video & images) that one lot owner can see from his/her window into another lot owner's window. In some homes, the view from the eat-in kitchen window is into another home's bathroom window. Certainly people can see inside others' windows while being in their own yards, and I think there is a mistake about the definition and application of public view here.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/20/2021 11:41 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 05/18/2021 11:25 AM
Posted By AvaA on 05/18/2021 9:55 AM
Hi, all!
None of our documents define "public view." [snip]
I'm looking for a legal definition of public view in North Carolina. I'd be grateful if someone could point my in the right direction to find the answer.
Ha. Good one. My hat is off to AvaA for wanting to try to ensure the Board is on solid ground in agreeing or disagreeing that there is a violation here.

AvaA, can you please quote the part of your HOA's Bylaws or covenants that uses the phrase "public view"?





None of our docs use the phrase public view, but our violation notice instructed the spied upon neighbor to remove "unsightly" items from public view. The spying neighbor submitted a substantial number of images captured over 3 months. The board didn't independently verify the allegations of litter boxes, garbage, "inappropriate outdoor items," but we sent the violation notice based on the spying neighbor's claim. We couldn't tell from the pictures what the stuff was. The spying neighbor kept insisting the neighbor was taking no action and kept filling up our inboxes with pictures. We finally had someone look at the yard at the end of the 10-day correction period, and found seed flats and many potted plants.

Our community manager said pubic view is anywhere people can see from their yard or windows. Being that people can see inside other people's homes from their yards or windows, I'm not buying into this. If that's true, then people can legally record and distribute video and images taken of inside others' homes. I know my duty is to the HOA, but I cringe about neighbors spying on neighbors.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/20/2021 11:45 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 05/18/2021 11:42 AM
-- Here's a follow-up to CathyA3's lawinsider definition:



Thank you for the links and information! This situations feels complicated to newbie me, but I enjoy the learning.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2599


05/21/2021 5:38 AM  
Posted By AvaA on 05/20/2021 11:45 PM
Posted By AugustinD on 05/18/2021 11:42 AM
-- Here's a follow-up to CathyA3's lawinsider definition:



Thank you for the links and information! This situations feels complicated to newbie me, but I enjoy the learning.



If this feels complicated, wait until we start arguing "shall" vs. "may" or what constitutes "reasonable". :-) Courts are big on reasonable, but it's often not black and white. A lot of HOA issues seem pretty straightforward until you start digging into them,, and then you find a whole lot of wherefores and why-nots. (This is one reason good board members can burn out fast.)

My "reasonable" view on this issue:

* What is going on in someone else's backyard is nobody else's business unless it poses a danger to others' welfare or their property or is a "nuisance". For example, wood piles can attract varmints or termites, so they may be the HOA's business.

* Some other supporting info for this view: there is a slowly-growing body of laws and other regulations about the use of drones, since one of the big complaints about them is that they can be used to spy on others' property. Some of the discussion centers on ownership of the air space above your lot. I consider looking out of your second floor window down into your neighbor's yard to be essentially equivalent to using a drone.

* You'll never get two people to agree on what is "unsightly". Folks who like the pristine look will probably think any gardening activity is "unsightly" (and yes, it does make a mess when you're in the middle of it). I hate restrictions that prohibit unsightly anything because it's so vague, and when push comes to shove in court cases, judges often rule against things they feel are arbitrary. Board members may feel that the benefit of trying to enforce such a restriction isn't worth the possible price they'll have to pay.

* Some homeowners like to use the board to conduct personal vendettas against neighbors. These homeowners will probably be doing things that are worse than any perceived "offense" committed by their targets - this thread is a perfect illustration of that.


DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1689


05/21/2021 7:31 AM  
Posted By AvaA on 05/20/2021 11:41 PM


None of our docs use the phrase public view, but our violation notice instructed the spied upon neighbor to remove "unsightly" items from public view.



So if the docs don't say anything about "public view", can you provide the verbiage from your docs under which the violation notice was issued?

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/21/2021 7:35 AM  
Posted By AvaA on 05/20/2021 11:41 PM
The board didn't independently verify the allegations of litter boxes, garbage, "inappropriate outdoor items," but we sent the violation notice based on the spying neighbor's claim.
Don't you think it's a problem when a board does not investigate a claim before issuing a violation notice?

I am a little disgusted with this thread.

Someone else play good cop.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/22/2021 10:52 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 05/21/2021 7:35 AM
Posted By AvaA on 05/20/2021 11:41 PM
The board didn't independently verify the allegations of litter boxes, garbage, "inappropriate outdoor items," but we sent the violation notice based on the spying neighbor's claim.
Don't you think it's a problem when a board does not investigate a claim before issuing a violation notice?

I am a little disgusted with this thread.

Someone else play good cop.



I agree that it's a problem when claims aren't investigated before issuing violation notices. I'm disgusted with this thread and the overall activity of my fellow board members. I wish I hadn't joined the board and further wish I hadn't bought into the community.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/22/2021 11:14 AM  
Posted By DouglasK1 on 05/21/2021 7:31 AM
Posted By AvaA on 05/20/2021 11:41 PM


None of our docs use the phrase public view, but our violation notice instructed the spied upon neighbor to remove "unsightly" items from public view.



So if the docs don't say anything about "public view", can you provide the verbiage from your docs under which the violation notice was issued?




I haven't found anything in our docs that relate to a backyard. Rules designated for the front yard are about being able to see from the street. The violation doesn't reference any of our docs.
The violation notice reads:
"Remove unsightly items from public view which includes, but isn't limited to trash, bins, litter boxes, boxes, storage bins, tool boxes and any inappropriate outdoor items."

After-the-fact (post violation notice) inspection revealed seeds flats, planting/gardening containers with plants in them, and a plastic tool box that contains gardening gloves, sheers, insect repellent, and other gardening tools that the owner carries with her outside when she gardens. The owner stated that when she goes indoors to use the bathroom or take a break, she often leaves the toolbox outside. It's clear that the small toolbox isn't stored outside. It looks brand new. There were some (2 -3) new unopened bags of potting soil neatly stacked close to the rear of the house. It was obvious to me that the neighbor is an avid gardener.

Now that the cumulative situation is sinking in, I suspect one neighbor is harassing the other and using us to do so. The other board members have been unobjective and took sides with the complaining neighbor a long time ago. When I told the board members what I saw in the backyard, their defense was "from the neighbor's vantage point, they look like litter boxes." I see my resignation in the near future. The other board members are close friends and spend a lot of time with each other. I can't reason with them, and it's clear I'm getting nowhere. I hope I don't ever get on the board's bad side. I regret moving here.
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/22/2021 11:33 AM  
Posted By AvaA on 05/22/2021 11:14 AM

Now that the cumulative situation is sinking in, I suspect one neighbor is harassing the other and using us to do so. The other board members have been unobjective and took sides with the complaining neighbor a long time ago. When I told the board members what I saw in the backyard, their defense was "from the neighbor's vantage point, they look like litter boxes." I see my resignation in the near future. The other board members are close friends and spend a lot of time with each other. I can't reason with them, and it's clear I'm getting nowhere. I hope I don't ever get on the board's bad side. I regret moving here.
AvaA, for the little it may be worth, you sound like an intelligent soul. The Board and HOA do not deserve you. Whatever you decide, good luck.
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