Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Yard v. The Homeowners Association

I wouldn’t say that the houses are made of ticky tacky because they are very well built. And I wouldn’t say that they all look just the same because they each have at least one defining characteristic. But several of my Relatives in Far Flung States live in developments that are overseen by homeowners associations. I’m always amused and sometimes horrified by the rules that are imposed. Every once in awhile I hear a news report about some ridiculous thing that is forbidden by these associations, such as smoking in one’s own home, or putting up a wreath in the shape of a peace sign.

My own relatives have been called out for doing such outlandish things as hanging a wreath on a fence (wreaths must only go on the front door!), leaving the garage door open (“Is everything okay over there, hon? Your garage door is open!”) or planting a non-approved tree in the backyard (conifers only need apply). A neighbor of my aunt’s was chastised for putting his holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. It seems one must wait until December 1.

The strictest rules apply to gardening and landscaping. In many developments, you can’t add any beds or plantings to the front yard at all. Backyard beds and plants must be approved and forget about storing a boat or putting in a swingset. They are very picky about parking too – they frown on any car that is not in the garage, and parking on the street is a big no-no. A dog must never be allowed off leash -- even in his own yard.

On the upside, they mow your lawn, trim your bushes, rake your leaves, plow your driveway and will repaint your door (but only in one of the pre-approved colors: slate, cream or “bark”). For my relatives who are mostly of retirement age, the trade-off is worth it, but I think it would be fun to live somewhere where the OPPOSITE kind of rules were in effect! Something like:

1) Your door cannot be painted the same color as any other door on your street.

2) Homeowners with the most diverse plant species in their garden win a gift certificate to the local nursery.

3) Garden gnomes, pink flamingos and colored lights encouraged year-round.

4) All front yards are hearby to be turned into vegetable gardens.

5) All homes come equipped with coops for free-range chickens.

Got any to add?


Pam J. said...

Loved this post! And your list of 5 rules too. Happy New Year!

tina said...

Cute animal topiaries encouraged.

tina said...

Bottle trees required. Extra points for originality!

Shoveling snow and maintaining the sidewalk optional.

Joanne said...

Ooh, I like your development better. Your relatives' development seems to be lacking signs of happiness. Let's see, how about Adirondack chairs encouraged? And birdhouses, too! A few wind chimes, maybe?

Karen said...

Little boxes on the hillside and they're all made out of ticky-tacky... hm, have we been watching the same show? Couldn't live in a place like that, I'd be kicked out after 3 days! I think our neighbors already consider us a detriment to the block because we leave out compost bags and weeding buckets where they are visible. I'd put in "parking strip must contain more than just grass and trees"!

Lorilee said...

I love the chicken coop requirement. I also agree with Tina that bottle trees are a must. How about a bat house? Also, decorations encouraged for all holidays! Don't forget also to fly the stars and stripes!

Lorilee said...

Ooops! I forgot about the clothesline requirement!

Kitt said...

Beehives encouraged, too!

Sensible city ordinances are a good thing when they forbid trash buildup, junked cars and waist-high weeds, but homeowners' associations seem to go way overboard in their scope and enforcement.

One change I've been glad to see here is that covenants can't forbid water-conserving landscaping anymore.

Kitt said...

Oh, but I have to disagree with you on the shoveling, Tina. I get really ticked off when people don't shovel their sidewalks. It's dangerous.

spookydragonfly said...

Oh, I just loved this post! At one time I had to deal with an association...never again! Some of their rules are indeed absurd. Hmmm??...maybe that's part of the reason I live way back in the woods now!

Anonymous said...

i have a very a funny story about this subject but i will wait to meet with you to tell it as it has some bad words in it. it's about a homeowner's association in a suburb of Los Angeles.

i once lived in a place where planting flowers (even window boxes or planters that could not be totally hidden from view) were forbidden. imaigine. i lasted 3 months there.


edward said...

and plenty of birdseed scattered everywheres!

JGH said...

Love these ideas. Let's round them up.

1) Animal topiaries ecouraged.

2) Bottle trees (Tina needs to give us her botanical name for them that she made up) required.

3) Snow shovelling optional.

4) Adirondack chairs encouraged.

5) Bird houses and beehives required.

6) Compost and weed bins a natural part of life!

7) Parking strips must contain more than grass & trees.

8) Fly the stars and stripes freely.

9) Clotheslines are beautiful and practical.

Thanks, ya'll! Sounds like utopia to me.

tina said...

Silica transparencii is the botanical name for bottle trees, though I certainly cannot take credit for it. Not sure who came up with it, But Felder Rushing coined the term in his book Tough Plants for Northern Gardens.

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hello! Found my way here from Karen's blog Greenwalks. Fun post! Love the list of new rules. My mom lives down in FL. She had a friend, who moved into a gated communitey. This friend got in trouble for planting hot pink petunias in her front yard. She was told they were "too trailer park trashy". Apparently white petunias were okay. The association even sent her a letter demanding that she remove the offending petunias. Just ludicrous!

JGH said...

Wenches, thanks for visiting. Pink Petunias??!! How radical!! I wonder how these association boards decide who is worthy of determining what petunia colors are acceptable ;-)