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Frequently Asked Questions:
When I bought my house, nobody told me about the
Covenants. Do they apply to me?
Yes. The covenants are in your deed, going all the way back to 1906 when the Rickert-Finlay development company bought the land from Benjamin Wooley. The Covenants apply to your property whether or not you were specifically told about them by your lawyer, your real estate agent, or your title company. Your title report should have indicated that the Covenants exist; but whether or not the report included that information, the Covenants apply.
My house is in Nassau County, not Queens County. Do the Covenants apply to me?
If your house is within the area shown on the Westmoreland map, the Covenants apply to you. The map shows the Nassau/Queens border running diagonally from the upper left corner to the right side. The properties on the upper side of that line are in Nassau County, but are part of the Westmoreland area development, and are subject to the same Covenants.
How do I become a member of the Westmoreland Association?
If you own property within the Westmoreland area, as shown on the map, you are automatically a member of the Westmoreland Association. Annual dues are very modest � $7.50 per individual, or $15 per household. Although you are not legally required to pay these dues, only members whose annual dues are paid up can vote at Association meetings. We are your civic association, and like any such group we can only be effective if our members participate.
What is the �Business Section�?
When the Rickert-Finlay company developed the Westmoreland area, it designated certain parts of the area as the �Business Section.� The boundary of the Business Section is set out in Covenant #2. The block and lot numbers in this Covenant are not the New York City or Nassau County Block and Lot numbers. Rather, they are block and lot numbers from the original Rickert-Finlay (R-F) subdivision plan. The R-F block numbers are shown on the Westmoreland area map. The Business District is outlined in heavy dark lines on the map. It includes all of R-F blocks 1 and 2, and half of R-F block 13. Only the south half of R-F block 13 (facing Northern Boulevard) is in the Business District. The R-F lot numbers are not shown on this map, but are probably included in your deed; the Westmoreland Association can give you more information about the R-F lot numbers.
Can I run a business out of my home?
No � not unless you are located in the Business Section. Covenant #2 prohibits the use of any property outside the Business Section for �any manufacturing or business purpose whatever�. This prohibition includes professional offices (doctors, lawyers, etc.).
How many �lots� are needed for a house in the Westmoreland Area?
Covenant #7 gives the answer. The lots referred to in this Covenant are not your New York City or Nassau County tax lots. Rather, they are the lot numbers from the original 1906 Rickert-Finlay (R-F) subdivision. They are probably shown on your deed, and the Westmoreland Association can also provide you with the lot numbers for your property. Most (but by no means all) of the R-F lots were 20 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Each house requires at least two R-F lots; corner properties require at least three R-F lots.
What rules control � the Covenants or the Zoning rules?
Both sets of rules apply. The covenants apply to all properties in the Westmoreland area. If your property is located in Queens County, you are subject to the New York City zoning rules. If your property is located in Nassau County, you are subject to the applicable zoning rules there. Sometimes the zoning rules are more protective, and sometimes the Westmoreland rules are more protective. You have to comply with both.
What is the zoning for the Westmoreland area?
Most of the Westmoreland area is in Queens County, and most of that is zoned R2A. (The area was re-zoned from R2 to R2A in 2006.) A few areas are zoned R3-1, including Block # 1 on the Rickert-Finlay map; a few parcels at the west end of Block # 7; and parcels that front on Northern Boulevard (which also have a C1-2 Commercial Overlay zoning designation). An R2A district requires single-family detached residences; an R3-1 district permits one- or two-family detached or semi-detached residences. (Many other zoning rules also apply; this is not a complete list of zoning requirements.) The portion of the Westmoreland area that is in Nassau County is also zoned for single-family residences.
Are multiple-family residences permitted under the Westmoreland Covenants?
The Westmoreland Covenants allow construction of either a �house� or a �double-house� (two houses sharing a common wall; what nowadays would be called a semi-attached or semi-detached house). The word �house� is not specifically defined in the Covenants, but because the purpose of the Covenants was, among other things, to limit the density of development in the area, the Westmoreland Association has determined that the word �house� as used in the Covenants means a one-family house. Covenant #7 indicates that a �double-house� may be built, provided that �such house shall be erected on a plot of not less than 3 lots and have not less than 10 feet between it and the nearest adjoining house.� The �lots� referred to are Rickert-Finlay subdivision lots, not New York City or Nassau County tax lots.
I�m building a new house, or expanding an existing house. How far must it be set back?
Covenants # 9 and 10 provide that no building may be erected closer than 20 feet from the front line or (in the case of a corner lot) from the side street line of a property. The New York City zoning rules for an R2A zone � the predominant zone in the Westmoreland area � normally requires a minimum 15-foot setback; but if adjacent residential buildings on the same or adjoining zoning lots fronting on the same street have front yards greater than the minimum, then the R2A zoning rule requires a front yard setback �at least as deep as an adjacent front yard....� As stated above, houses must comply with both the Covenants and the zoning rules.
What is the �front line� or �side street line� of a property?
Covenants # 9 and 10 refer to the �front line� and the �side street line� of a property. These are the actual property boundaries. Most home owners received a copy of a survey along with their deed when they bought their home. If so, the survey will show where the front property line is located (this is the line along the street towards which your house faces). If you have a corner property, the �side street line� is the property line along the side street.
What are �Porches, piazzas and porte cocheres?�
Covenants #9 and 10 refer to �porches, piazzas and porte cocheres.� In general, these are parts of the house that are not fully enclosed from the outside by walls. Examples include an old-fashioned porch with railings, or a screened-in porch that does not have full walls, or a deck or front entry stoop or the like.
What is an �outbuilding�?
Covenant #11 provides that no �stable or other outbuilding shall be erected nearer then 60 feet to the front line of any lot except in the business sections.� While nobody in this area has a stable anymore, many properties have an �outbuilding.� This is a building that is separated from the house, like a detached garage or garden shed.
What is a �fence�?
Covenant #13 provides that no �fence except hedge or shrubbery will be permitted within 20 feet of the front line or side street line of any lot.� A fence is any non-vegetative barrier, including a picket fence, a split-rail fence, a stockade fence, or a wrought iron or chain-link fence. The prohibition includes fences running along the side line dividing two properties � such fences may not extend closer than 20 feet to the front line.
There seem to be some violations of the Westmoreland Covenants in the area. Why?
Indeed, there are a very small number of violations of some of the Covenants. Most of these date back to a period in the 1950's and 1960's. Our municipal government (New York City or Nassau County) cannot enforce Covenants like those in the Westmoreland area deeds; only we can do it ourselves. That is why the Westmoreland Association was created � to enforce the Covenants that have served for a century to keep our property values high. Although there are a few violations, their number is extremely small in comparison to the number of properties in the area. As the New York State courts have said on several occasions, a small number of violations of covenants are not sufficient to defeat the overall purpose of such covenants. Only when the violations become sufficiently numerous so that the purpose of the covenants are no longer being fulfilled will the courts decline to enforce their terms. If we fail to take action to require correction of a violation within a reasonable period of time, the courts may be unwilling to enforce the covenants at a later date. That is why some old violations continue to exist. However, when the ownership of a house changes, we have an opportunity to get the new owner to correct the violation.