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First Colony Community Services Association, Inc. v. Valentz

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

February 23, 2017

FIRST COLONY COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, INC., Appellant
v.
ARTHUR J. VALENTZ AND LYNN VALENTZ, Appellees

         On Appeal from the 268th Judicial District Court Fort Bend County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 12-DCV-201294

          Panel consists of Justices Massengale, Brown, and Huddle.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rebeca Huddle Justice

         Appellant First Colony Community Services Association, Inc. appeals the trial court's rendition of summary judgment in favor of appellees Arthur J. Valentz and Lynn Valentz (the "Valentzes"). The Valentzes are homeowners in First Colony. They are also grantees of a non-exclusive landscape easement the Association granted them in 2000. The Association sued the Valentzes, claiming the Valentzes' erection of a fence with a locked gate violated the terms of the easement. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Valentzes, and the Association appealed. We reverse and render partial summary judgment in favor of the Association, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background

         The Association is a property owners' association that represents residential and commercial properties within the development community known as First Colony. The Valentzes reside in a home in First Colony on a street named Pipers Walk.

         In 2000, the Association granted the Valentzes a non-exclusive landscape easement on a strip of land running alongside the Valentzes' lot connecting Pipers Walk to the Sweetwater Country Club golf course, which is behind the Valentzes' home. The easement refers to the strip of land as Reserve E and grants the Valentzes a recorded "non-exclusive landscape easement on, over, under, across, along, and through" Reserve E.

         The Valentzes accepted the easement subject to "[a]ll valid and subsisting easements" and certain other limitations. Two are of importance here. The first limitation sets forth the purposes for which the easement shall be used:

Grantee's use of the Easement Area shall be for the installation, construction, maintenance, operation, replacement, change, or removal of landscaping and appurtenances ("landscaping and appurtenances" being defined to include but not limited to, all plants, trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, grasses, soil, mulch, bark, gazebos, decking, fences and walks, rocks and boulders, benches, fountains, sprinkler systems, lighting systems and other landscape treatment items).

         Another limitation requires that the Valentzes' and their successors' use of the easement be consistent with the Declaration, which is the Association's governing document:

As part of the consideration for this easement, Grantee covenants and agrees that any landscaping and appurtenances installed and maintained by Grantee or their heirs, successors, or assigns pursuant to this easement shall comply with the requirements and standards set out in (i) the Declaration . . . and any amendments thereto.

         The Declaration referenced in the easement details covenants, conditions and restrictions that are binding on all parties having any right, title or interest in any property subject to its provisions or any portion thereof. Article III of the Declaration explains residential owners' property rights in the common areas, including Reserve E:

Each Owner of a Residential Unit shall have a right and easement of enjoyment in and to the Common Area, subject to any restrictions or limitations on use set forth in any deed or this Declaration and subject to any rules and regulations promulgated and published by the Board of Directors of the Association.

         The Valentzes installed landscaping and appurtenances, including a brick walkway and wrought iron fencing on Reserve E. The Valentzes also eventually installed a gate on Reserve E that, when closed, prohibited access to the Reserve. In 2011, without receiving the Association's approval, the Valentzes began locking the gate, thereby excluding other owners. The Association asked the Valentzes to remove the lock and leave the gate open so as to allow other owners to freely access Reserve E. The Valentzes refused ...


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