Tamara Miller: Nanny in my backyard
Vail CO, Colorado
Vail Valley homeowners: Ever get the feeling that the people writing rules for your homeowners’ association live no where near your neighborhood?
I’m nearly convinced that there is a little tattle elf who patrols our neighborhood, bound solely by a desire to enforce rules for rule’s sake. This elf has no connection to my townhome complex, other than its fervent desire to look for bylaw violations and rat us out to our neighbors.
It hasn’t been a regular occurrence, but it also hasn’t been unusual lately for me to pull in my driveway and find a scolding yellow piece of paper stuck on the front of my door. The note usually details various infractions that residents, who will not be named, have committed. Things like installing satellite dishes too low, or daring to own a charcoal barbecue or leaving a child’s toy unattended on the front lawn for a few hours.
You know, the kind of stuff that lets you know the neighborhood is turning to pot.
But the latest notice ” which chastised homeowners for storing their bikes on their decks ” really puzzled me. My husband and I actually have our bikes properly stored in our garage, but I’d say more than 70 percent of our neighbors have some sort of sporting equipment sitting out on their deck. Which begs the question: Who makes these rules?
Personally, I don’t really mind seeing bikes and skis on my neighbor’s decks. In fact, I kind of relish it now that I live in Eagle; it’s sort of a tribute to the little ski bum who still exists in all of us despite the fact that we’ve all moved downvalley, had kids, work 60 hours a week and don’t get on the hill often enough any more to justify buying a season pass.
And honestly, in our little townhome complex, where all of our homes look pretty much like the next, there’s so little that each of us can do to set our place apart.
I don’t particularly care for the pink curtains that adorn my neighbor’s upstairs window, or how another keeps the Christmas lights up year-round.
I’m sure there’s someone in my neighborhood who wishes we’d replace the bent, metal blinds in our living room (I’d like to, too. Just give me the money.) But at least when my friends and family pull into the parking lot, they know which place is ours.
One in six neighborhoods across the country have a homeowners association, according to the Community Associations Institute. That same organization claims that more than 70 percent of homeowners surveyed “rate their overall community association experience as positive.”
But lately I’ve been wondering how bad it would be if we just did away with our HOA.
I understand why homeowners want to keep their property looking orderly and nice, and I want to protect and enhance our investment in the Vail Valley real estate market as much as the next person does.
But while my HOA dues keep rising every year, not much has changed in our neighborhood. The snowplow guy still doesn’t come until well after everyone has left for work for the day. The landscape guys don’t do much to the yard, but have no problem raking off the mulch we spent $100 spreading over our flower garden every year.
In the meantime, people still don’t pick up after their pets in the common area, and homeowners who rent out their places still let their renters violate all of the HOA rules.
I guess the only enforcement power our HOA actually has is the authority to post a mean yellow letter on the front door.
That’s why I’m considering running for my HOA board ” on a platform of abolishing most of the association’s power.
I may be a liberal when it comes to state and national politics, but I’m a Ron Paul kind of strict constructionist when it comes to my home.
And I’ve had enough of the liberal, nanny-taxing, cappuccino-sipping kind of government that’s running my townhome complex.
I believe an association’s job is to collect dues to repair our roofs, paint our buildings and keep the parking lot paved, and that’s about it.
Let each household decide which the best lawn ornament or front door color for themselves, I say.
And if I want to leave a bike on the deck, well, it’s my God-given American right to do so.
Opinion/Projects Editor Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or email@example.com.