I stood on a neighbors porch, shaking his hand and introducing myself as a member of the HOA Board of Directors.
I get it, I really do. You grew up, paid your bills, saved your pennies and then you bought a home. Maybe this is your first home; maybe you’re a veteran home buyer. Perhaps you have never lived in an HOA neighborhood before. The very concept that someone else can tell YOU what you can and cannot do with YOUR property is so foreign to us that it makes calm people angry, and rational neighbors into irrational enemies. But is it REALLY such a foreign concept?
American laws and freedoms are based upon a simple concept. Your rights end where my rights begin. It’s really that simple. We accept that as a fact daily without even thinking about it. You listen to your music with headphones so that you can rock out to Bon Jovi, and your co-workers can talk on their phones with clients. You stop at a stop sign and wait for traffic rather than plow ahead, indifferent to the people around you. You stand in line for tickets at the movie theater, aware that you can’t just barge to the front and demand your right to purchase a seat. You enjoy your rights, but as a rational citizen you recognize that it’s not all about you.
HOAs have two main duties. Protect home values; Enrich the sense of community. Often these two duties are in direct opposition to each other. As a board member I may vote against your plan to paint your house bright pink. You then become angry and post signs in your yard demanding your right to freedom of speech. I have the HOA lawyer send over a stern letter telling you to take down the signs. You refuse and a nasty court battle ensues. Neighbors take up sides and there goes the sense of community.
So wouldn’t it be easier if the HOA just didn’t tell you what to do? I mean this is a free country and we have rights as property owners, Right? Yes and No. When you chose Almond Glen as your home (and we are glad you did), you signed a large amount of paperwork. In there somewhere was the HOA paperwork. Whether you read it or not doesn’t matter you accepted it. As a member of an HOA you gave up certain rights and gained others. You forfeited the right to do whatever you want to your property and in many cases, gained the right to refuse your neighbors requests to do what they want.
So why do we have to live by certain rules regarding our property? What are the benefits? All you wanted to do was build a shed in the backyard why can’t you just pick one up from a hardware store and be done with it?
Again, these rules aren’t entirely foreign concepts. Lets say you live on the dead end of Allendale. Your backyard is all trees and marshy water drainage area. Your Saturday morning routine includes sipping coffee while watching wildlife play… not a bad little slice of the world. One day you wake up to find garbage trucks dumping in your former paradise, what the heck happened?
Zoning laws protect us from these kinds of nightmares. Everyone has heard of Zoning Laws, but not everyone understands them. Essentially the zoning laws tell developers what kind of things they can build in a specific area. HOA bylaws and covenants work the same way. You can build this fence; you can’t build that one. You may have this shed; that one is not approved. Why all the hub-bub over a shed or fence? It’s simply because you have to draw a line somewhere.
So who makes the decisions? Who is in charge? Who are the “them” you always hear about? “They” said I couldn’t build it. They told me that would be ok.
YOU run your HOA in the same manner your city is run by you. A member, that’s you, elects an HOA board once a year. The HOA Board Members (5 of them) create and oversee committees. The committees and the board of directors interpret the bylaws and CCRs and make decisions based on those interpretations. If you are displeased with the interpretations of the rules; you vote the board or specific board members out of office at the next annual meeting and we start all over again.
Your current board of directors has created several committees, each consisting of 5 members, who help the board interpret the rules. These committees give different perspectives and therefore widen the overall point of view when examining issues within our community. It’s important to remember that the current bylaws and CCRs only require the creation of an Architectural Review Committee. The board members elected in July of 2013 recognized a need for more community involvement and created the other committees. A future board could choose to not use committees and instead make all decisions themselves.
In closing I think it’s important to focus on all the benefits you gain from living in our neighborhood. We have wonderful neighbors who are meeting each other and forming friendships. We have neighborhood wide block parties as opposed to small street-by-street gatherings. We enjoy a clean community pool without all of the maintenance and personal liability of a backyard pool. Our property values are maintained and increased by the relatively uniform look of our homes and our well-manicured laws. Of course you live in a free country. You live in the greatest country in the world and because of that you have the opportunity to own a home in what I feel is the greatest neighborhood in Lancaster County.