A homeowner's three-year fight to keep his 440-channel satellite dish in Columbia's Long Reach village ended yesterday when he and the Columbia Association reached a settlement in which he will plant five trees to obscure the device and lower it by 12 inches.
The case, which had been scheduled for trial in Howard County Circuit Court today, is one of only a few in recent years in which a Columbia resident sued by the association for violating architectural covenants hired an attorney to help fight the violation in court.
Darrick Estes, 47, was among the 12 property owners sued last year for alleged violations as the nonprofit association sought stricter enforcement of covenants to avoid what it feared would be nose-diving property values.
"It's a victory for me because I'm the little guy," said Mr. Estes, a systems integrationist, who argued that his $3,200 backyard satellite is a tool he needs for his job.
An association official took a more restrained view, however. "We're just pleased that we've been able to come to a settlement and the satellite dish has been screened [by trees], which definitely meets covenant requirements," said Maggie Brown, an association vice president and chairwoman of its architectural committee.
Each of Columbia's 10 villages has a Architectural Resource Committee, which oversees the village's detailed architectural guidelines, which are themselves contained in Columbia's property covenants. The committee decides whether to take legal action after several complaints.
Mr. Estes' battle began three years ago when he installed the dish in his back yard, disguising it as an oversized, canvas umbrella shading a patio table. In June 1992, Long Reach officials cited Mr. Estes for having an unapproved satellite dish in his back yard that didn't meet requirements for screening the dish from neighbors.
During the next 16 months, Mr. Estes planted trees to partially screen the dish, but his applications to have that solution accepted by village and association officials were denied. Long Reach sent the case to the Columbia Association, which took it to court in January 1994.
Under the settlement, Mr. Estes will plant five cypress trees, costing a total of about $1,500, and lower the satellite dish by 12 inches. Each side will pay its own legal fees.