Residents of Tacoma’s West Slope neighborhood in fight over views

Residents of Tacoma’s West Slope neighborhood take their views of Puget Sound seriously, so seriously in fact they’re willing to go to court to fight for them.

A couple who built an addition onto their house on South Ventura Drive found that out the hard way recently and now face the prospect of having to tear out their new bedroom.

Frank and Nancy Parsons intend to fight a Pierce County judge’s decision that found their home out of compliance with neighborhood covenants. On Wednesday, they filed their intent to have the state Court of Appeals review the matter.

“This is ongoing litigation,” the Parsons’ attorney, Sam Bull, told The News Tribune earlier this month.

The litigation so far has not gone the Parsons’ way.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan ruled Dec. 12 that the addition the Parsons had built onto their home violated covenants that restrict the height of buildings in the Narrowmoor Third Addition area of the West Slope neighborhood.

Hogan enjoined the couple from constructing the addition. Trouble is, it’s already built.

The fight began in August when a number of neighbors filed suit in Pierce County Superior Court asking a judge to prohibit the Parsons from adding onto the house they purchased in March.

Mark Lewington, who lives uphill of the Parsons, was one.

In a sworn affidavit filed as part of the lawsuit, Lewington said he spoke to the Parsons briefly before they began construction. Lewington said he was told his neighbors planned to add a garage onto their house.

“The Parsons did not say that they were also planning to add a third-floor master suite, which would have raised a concern,” Lewington wrote. “The true scope of the Parsons’ three-story construction will gravely impact my views, the character of my neighborhood and my enjoyment of my home.”

The plaintiffs submitted before-and-after photographs showing how their views have been altered by the Parsons’ addition.

Covenants that regulate building in Narrowmoor Third Addition state that houses there are “not to exceed two stories in height.”

Frank Parsons, who goes by Iain, wrote in his own sworn affidavit that he and his wife did considerable research into city building codes and neighborhood covenants before embarking on their plans to add a “low-profile second story” onto their house.

“When we read Covenant A, Nancy and I did not contemplate that someone might consider our basement to be a ‘story in height’ under the covenant,” Parsons wrote. “Rather, we believed the covenant applied to the above-ground floors.”

Parson pointed out that other houses in the neighborhood, including one that was subject to an earlier lawsuit, have two stories above ground in addition to a basement.

Bull referenced that earlier case in his arguments on the Parsons’ behalf.

“In Lester v. Willardsen, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ interpretation of the Narrowmoor Third Addition covenants and held that ‘there is no support for a finding that drafters intended a daylight basement to constitute a story,’” Bull wrote in pleadings.

Those opposed to the Parsons’ addition countered that the house in question in the Willardsen case was one the perimeter of the development with only businesses uphill of it.

“Consequently, even after that case was decided, the Narrowmoor Third Community continued to interpret the restrictive covenants’ two-story height limit as including basement stories with regard to downhill lots where taller home would impact views,” Mike Fleming, treasurer of the West Slope Neighborhood Coalition, wrote in a sworn affidavit filed in the case. “There has never been a violation of the two-story height limit on a downhill lot in Narrowmoor Third.”