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Originally published September 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 29, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Off-color fence dispute leaves $85,000 stain

Caramel: It's the shade Marc and Kristina Weiss used to stain a 12-foot section of cedar fence at their Redmond town home. And it's a stain...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Caramel: It's the shade Marc and Kristina Weiss used to stain a 12-foot section of cedar fence at their Redmond town home.

And it's a stain that proved impossible to get out, even after members of the town-home association's board insisted on piña colada.

The Weisses restained with Nantucket white, but they refused to repaint their fence piña colada.

The color war raged for months and finally landed in the hands of an arbitrator.

The result? Vindication for the Weisses and more than $85,000 in legal fees on the association's tab.

That's a lot of colada.

"I think a lot of people just say the hell with it, it's not worth it to me," Kristina Weiss said.

The couple feared their fence would be the target of a renegade painter, so they got a lawyer and took the complicated case, which also involves their plans to build a gate, to arbitration.

Arbitrator Jerome O. Cohen ruled caramel was in fact an approved hue, and that the Weisses were never required to use the piña colada color.

He also found the shade resulting from the caramel-Nantucket white combination — dulce de leche, maybe? — was so close to piña colada that the two shades were indistinguishable under "reasonable observation."

Cohen ordered the Sammamish Forest Manors Homeowners Association to reimburse the Weisses' legal fees, which came to more than $39,000.

Together with its own legal fees, the town-home association will spend more than $85,000 on the color war.

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Bob Bear, who is now president of the homeowners' association board and was on the board throughout the months-long dispute, said a clash of personalities, not colors, was the real cause of the conflict.

He blames a few board members, who are no longer on the board, for using their power against Kristina and Marc Weiss, an architect and past board president, in a way that was "not rational."

People often get "way too emotional" in cases of this kind, said Seattle real-estate lawyer Jim Strichartz, who works on disputes between homeowners associations and their members but was not involved in this one.

"These disputes, when they can't be resolved internally, can easily spiral out of control," he said.

Conflicts can be compounded by the fact that those elected to the board of homeowners associations often lack the background and professionalism necessary to do the job, said Bear.

On Monday, the board of Sammamish Forest Manors Homeowners Association will hold a meeting to figure out what to do about the $85,000 in legal fees, some of which has yet to be paid.

Board member WJ Taylor said members have voted down an assessment, but the piña colada debacle is still taking its toll.

"I don't think we're past it," he said.

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347 or aroe@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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