ordinances almost always benefit some and anger others, but the key to
having the neighborhood you want is to participate. The squeaky wheels get
to decide what the neighborhood looks like. You get the impression from
reading some posts that some political gestapo imposes these ordinances from
the top, and we little people are getting screwed. The truth is that land
use planning and zoning is typically a very transparent process with lots of
hearings etc. and only a few people care enough or have the time or ambition
to participate. And all citizens must realize that the system is not
necessarily corrupt just because their position does not prevail. The
climate of "my adgenda at any price" including a willingness to lie to
advance the adgenda pervades our civic life and it may eventually ruin us.
On Fri, 2 Apr 2004 08:47:39 -0700, "Darwin Vander Stelt"
Applause, applause. I have been working with (doing a web site for) a
local neighborhood association. The membership is heavily weighted
with participation by Los Ricos with waterfront property, and they
*do* get their agenda acted upon. However,...a quarterly newsletter is
distributed to 1,600 households just in advance of general meetings.
At the last meeting, the attendance was 32 people, and about 150
families are voting members ($10/yr membership fee). The rest sit home
and complain about changes the association has promoted or brought
about. The quarterly general meetings and monthly board meetings are
open to participation by anyone. Los Ricos definitely have their own
interests in mind, but they *are* the ones who come to the meetings,
volunteer to be on the board, do the paperwork for grants and
activities, and hide the eggs and dress up in the bunny costume for
the Easter Egg Hunt in the park. I did my share of complaining
before I got involved. But Darwin is right. It does absolutely no good
to take a 'victim' position when there are opportunities to change
things through participation.
So basically you are saying you do all these things to get your voice heard.
Why is it set-up that way anyway? No wonder people don't feel like voting.
Maybe they have lives and don't feel like having to join a fraternity and
"All these things?!" How difficult is it to come to a 90-minute
meeting every 3 months? Or even once a year, when elections are held?
The purpose of the association is "to provide a means of friendly
association for the citizens of this organization, to preserve and
improve our neighborhood, and to communicate and work with surrounding
neighborhoods for the betterment of the area." If they expend so much
energy in complaining, why not spare a little to complain among a
group that may be able to change things? "To get your voice heard,"all
you have to do is SHOW UP and open your mouth. If, by "all these
things" you mean the Easter Egg Hunt and the bunny costume, this
*isn't* an initiation to a fraternity. It's an Easter Egg Hunt for
kids where one kind person dresses up in the suit so kids can have
their pictures taken on its lap. Neither attendance nor costume is
required. All activities and participation is voluntary. And the ones
that volunteer -- go to meetings, take an interest, bring up a topic
-- set the agenda.
If people "have lives" (and believe me, the board members are all very
busy people and all but one retiree with full-time jobs) and don't
"feel like" voting, then they have little cause to complain they're
being victimized by the decisions of others.
Gee, maybe people have other things to do like spend time with their kids
after being at work 10 hours a day.
Tell me something, if there was no group would the neighboorhood fall into
such disarray? Seems liek there are many areas, like the one I live in,
that work and look just fine without people having to have committees to
"To get your voice heard,"all
So those who don't "volunteer" get penalized. Thats quite a scam you guys
got going there. Not only do people have to pay taxes and a mortgage and
work 40+ hours a week and raise a family, but they have to dress in a bunny
suit. Wow, what a country!
I bet these are the kind of people that enjoy power and control.
Geez, aren't you people happy enough that there's one government? Why do
you have to add another layer of beauracracy onto it?
On Fri, 2 Apr 2004 08:47:39 -0700, "Darwin Vander Stelt"
There are many levels of garden and whatever they want to police
folks. There are county and city regulations that most folks are
totally unaware of, until some neighbor decides to complain about
Here, Boise, Idaho, there are rules that state that no plants can be
planted where they act as screen anywhere other than at the perimeter
of the property, like a fence. And then only in the same manner as a
fence, otherwise. no taller than 3' if there aren't spaces between the
plants. 4' if there are spaces where people can see through.
Everywhere else, no higher than 1' above grade.
We also can't plant things within the easement that is the highway
district's. My area is easy to determine since there is a sidewalk,
There is a 5' area past the fence into my yard where we cannot plant
trees, or build anything permanent in that area, or put anything that
would be difficult to remove.
So that covers the planting of stuff.. you can plant individual plants
that do not form barriers .. so you can plant one tree that can grow
more than 1' above grade, but you can't plant several in a row as that
would constitute a screen.
Then there are the annoying little rules that are usually not actively
enforced in general areas, things like you can't have a trash can out
over 24 hours before or after pickup date. You're not supposed to
have your hose out if it's not in use, at all. Not supposed to have
any yard care items or trash cans where they can be seen in the front
or back yard. You're supposed to tote all of them back and put them
in a shed. You don't have a shed? Get one, but make sure it conforms
to the rules too.
Now, those are general city codes.. and there are more. However what
a lot of people seem to fail to find out or really understand at times
is that many subdivisions have their OWN covenants which can be and
usually ARE much stricter. They go so far as to tell you that you can
ONLY plant certain plants, and some of them want no variation. They
want all front yards to have the SAME plants and no others in them,
and if something should die, they'd want you to replace it with a
plant the same size as those in the yards around you. If you plant
something else, you'd be told to remove it, if you didn't then someone
else would remove it and you would be billed. You have to have ONLY
the prescribed mail boxes, yard decorations, plants, paint/rock colors
etc. Any variations and you will be chastised, told to fix it, if yo
don't it will be fixed and you will pay and if you don't then you will
be fined, or taken to court. You have to sign papers to this effect
to get in. If you forget what you signed they'll remind you. It's a
cookie cutter sub division and that conformity makes some people
happy, and secure an no one should buy into such a community if they
aren't of that mentality. Some people just don't read it or don't
take it seriously!
I really don't much like cookie cutter yards, and I annoy my neighbor
to the east because he's anal retentive and my yard makes his butt
pucker. ;-D I hope he loses sleep over it he's suck a jerk..not
merely *my* observation!
So, there are real "garden police" and there are those who merely
I guess I just never understood why you should have to "come to the
meetings,volunteer to be on the board, do the paperwork for grants and
activities, and hide the eggs and dress up in the bunny costume for the
Easter Egg Hunt in the park," just to live in peace on your own property
without someone else telling you how they think you should live.
I subscribe to the live and let live theory of life. I find homeowners
associations to be antithetical to the fundamentals of freedom in America.
It took me two years to find a property that did not have some ridiculous
CC&R's that I had to live by because of some control freaks who thought
their way of life was the only valid one. Most people ruled by these
organizations are not aware of the loss of their civil rights until after
they have purchased the property and then it is too late. They are
victims, no doubt.
Unless you want to spend all of your free time in hostile meetings with
people who are often irrational, emotion driven, and have a hidden agenda,
then I suggest you take your time to find a property without any homeowners
association organization. They only benefit the few at the expense of
many. Not a good way to live life in my opinion. I long for the days when
neighbors worked out their own problems with rational adult discussions and
I was enumerating the many and varied things that the 'core' people
do, not a list of requirements. If you wish to "live and let live,"
you're surely free to do so. Perhaps others around you have contrary
ideas as to "how they think you should live." If you don't participate
in the process, you have no right to complain when the process runs
you over. It is my view that this particular neighborhood
association was formed at least in part to promote the interests of a
specific, small, 'elitist' group. However, as I mentioned, 1,600
households are eligible to take part. If they choose not to, they can
scarcely complain about speed bumps and yard sales. City Council
meetings are similarly ill-attended unless a particularly
controversial issue is being discussed. You can't depend on others
to safeguard your particular interests in the way you prefer.
I'm just waiting for the neighborhood nazi (i.e. the guy who called
the building inspector when I was building my garden shed) to squawk
about my ducks.
The way I figure it, if they have names, they're not livestock;
they're pets. So what if it's 6 ducks and a pullet in the backyard?
As long as I don't intrude on someone else's suburban bliss, WTF,
Some people don't have enough to do, AFIAK. My backyard neighbor (a
totally sweet little old widow-woman) is tickled pink that we have a
garden and ducks...she wants me to build a set of steps over the fence
so she can come over and play around in *our* yard. She loves the
kids, she loves getting tomatoes and garlic...but the pinhead two
doors over, who could barely even *see* the garden shed as it was
going up, has decided to exercise his "civic duty" in order to...well,
to just be a plain old pain in the ass of whoever annoys him.
I'd love to see my nice little suburban neighborhood populated by
people who have a sense of calm. People who would rather sit on the
back porch and listen to the "peep-peep" of the ducks...who would
rather piddle around with a bed of vegetables...who would rather turn
a compost bin than watch ESPN and veg out to the latest inane
...but that's just me.
I sincerely hope that doesn't happen. Portland has a limit of 2 or 3
chickens, and I was afraid our town did also. I have ten. Something was
said about chickens at one of the meetings about the new ordinance. I was
asked by the man in charge how many chickens I had. I asked is there a
limit? He said no, so I told him I had ten. I was really concerned that
I might have had to get rid of some, and they are all such pets that it
would be really, really difficult to decide which ones stayed and which
ones would go. Both cities allow only hens, no roosters or pea fowl
because of the noise. I'm fortunate that my close neighbors (and some
far-away) love the chickens and comment often how happy they are to hear
them the rare times they do.
Many folks bring their little ones to see the chickens. When the tykes
gather eggs, that's a real thrill. They, of course, take them home to
have for breakfast. The smiles those ten ladies bring to city children's
faces are wonderful.
That's so like the jerk that complained about the dog house for my
daughter-in-law's guide dog for the rare times she was outside alone. It
just wasn't always practical for a blind mother with two toddlers to stay
out with the dog until it pottied. Some people simply don't have lives!
It seems as though most neighborhoods have one. :-(
There are more of us, really there are!
who purchased a little concrete frog
and a turtle to put among the herbs
This has shown to be true here as well. In fact, we had so little
participation (and with *no* dues) that one meeting in which we proposed
changing the bylaws to include a quorum to be 3 elected board members and
5 general members (meaning non-elected) where it had been 3 and 15; we had
great attendance *and* had the required attendance at that one meeting
only (in over four years!). There was a quorum and it was decided to go
to 3 and 10 because a total of eight was "too few" making decisions. That
was in June. Well, until this past month, we didn't have a quorum and
couldn't vote on anything, including making some donations to charity!
The entire idea of the 8 was because 6-8 was a good attendance at most
meetings, even as few as a total of 4! While we had a quorum, we voted on
the many issues that had been set aside for up to 8 months, and *then*
changed the bylaws to reflect the 8 for a quorum as had originally been
suggested. You see, literally *none* of those who voted for 13 attended
another meeting in that eight months!
Our city recently passed a minimum property maintenance standard ordinance
which grouped all related laws and ordinances in one area for easier
understanding and enforcement. Of course, there were several that were
strengthened and some were added. Because I was at the initial meeting, I
was able to influence some of the new ones which were good for what they
were intended but what was in black and white was overly restrictive.
Example: no vegetation over 18" in height which excluded such things as
raspberries, tomato plants, etc. Solution: insertion of the word
"non-cultivated." Example: no wood stored on property without a current
building permit. Problem: many projects do not require building permits;
many folks have gardens using lumber as borders on raised beds, etc.
Solution: insert exception of agricultural and seasonal as long as
properly stored when not in use. Example: no holes on property.
Solution: define "hole" including size. The list goes on and on as you
can imagine. Clarification of terms, etc., made the finished product
livable and realistic for the average home owner. This entire process of
refining/defining and presenting it before various groups for input took
over 18 months. Our association had two (yes, two!) meetings specifically
about the ordinance, one dedicated to *only* that, asking for input and
then prepared a formal memo to the City incorporating all comments and
suggestions with even the memo read at the next meeting before
presentation to the City. Ordinance passed last fall and effective
December 31st. Yup, you can guess what has now happened at our last
meeting . . . a couple that had not been heard from before (and has lived
here for many years) was at the meeting complaining about not being able
to just throw gravel on a corner of their yard and park their trailer
there. Interestingly enough, they hadn't been able to do that since 1965
anyway, but didn't bother to find out what they needed to do. They would
have known, however, if they had read the newsletter or attended any of
the meetings. This is doubly frustrating to me as I faithfully attended
all meetings related to this as a neighborhood representative, made myself
initially unpopular by challenging the vagueness of some things and the
unreasonableness of others to City officials, regularly reported back to
our meetings as well as including key points in our newsletters (I was
editor for four years, now taking a break), and made myself available by
telephone for all input as well as in person.
This ordinance was highly publicized in the local newspaper, was addressed
on several news programs, was presented at many public meetings, was
available via web and in-person presentation by the department involved,
etc., for that entire year and a half. Yet, many people weren't
interested until it affected them. I must admit my attitude for those in
our own neighborhood who all received at least six newsletters asking for
them comments, aren't getting a lot of sympathy from me as my first
thought is, "Where were you during the year and a half of preparing the
ordinance?" This wasn't something done behind closed doors or "sneaked
past" the citizens; it was remarkably public as well as those involved
being receptive to suggestions. No, we didn't all get what we wanted,
either way, but we do have something we can feel we helped to make more
reasonable and livable. And, yes, I may get "nailed" on it with some of
my non-commercial tomato cages, tomato and potato tubs/planters, and bean
tee-pees if someone wants to be highly literal though I have been assured
it will not happen since that's "not who we are going after." (LOL, famous
Yup. The "don't care" attitude seems to be widespread *until* it affects
you (generic "you" not specifically "you"). My attitude is: Don't vote,
don't bitch. Only if you vote have you've given yourself the right to
complain. Of course, for our neighborhood, that is even more true since
everyone over 18 who either lives here or owns property here, is a member
and has a vote with a limitation of one vote per business. So, you can
see, there is no reason why everyone didn't have their voice heard.
Basically, I was involved because I wanted the City to keep their nose out
of *my* garden! Though I would have been involved anyway, I was much more
aware of how certain wording could be abused for those who garden. A
complaint-driven system stinks, even more so when the caller doesn't need
to identify self or even live in the city/state! We actually have one
person in our neighborhood who gets up on a ladder to look in the
neighbor's yard to see if there is *anything* they can turn in a complaint
about. There are some pretty petty people in this world (pretty mean very
Time to rototill, haul manure, and buy some super tomato plants!
The issue of home owners associations is quite different than
city/county/state/federal ordinances and laws. The overly restrictive
home owners association "rules" would not exist if home owners did not
allow them to be; it is only those directly involved that vote *and* they
know that when they buy. I suspect that they can be changed if the
majority want them to be.
Government laws and ordinances are another matter. They are passed to
cover everyone and need to be monitored by *real* residents and not just a
select few. If only those who live on the waterfront attend the meetings
regarding laws governing the waterfronts, then the rest of us will be
denied access to what should be, in most instances, public. In our own
community the "money" in the West Hills of Portland had a great deal of
influence over flight paths into PDX, undue influence, but others kept
silent and now all others are having a difficult time getting things
changed to the good of the greater population because the regulations are
already in effect. While this is not my "first love" for involvement, I
completely understand how the non-involvement of people allowed it to
happen and a greater portion of the population affected by it. Those of
us on the north side of the river receive absolutely no revenue from the
airport but are bearing the larger burden of the noise and pollution
because those in north Portland just didn't care enough to speak out
though they are adversely affected also. Worse now, a new law has been
passed requiring all in our county to disclose, when selling, if our
property is in the flight path which, of course, negatively affects resale
value . . . but does not, of course, allow a lower property tax rate!
Ironically, previous owners of my house moved into a neighborhood,
complete with CC&Rs which they didn't bother to evaluate and cannot hang
out laundry, among other things. I mention this one because it really
matters to her, she loved to have sun-dried sheets. My middle son had to
remove the dog house from his kennel, inside his fenced back yard (6-ft
board) because it was "unsightly." Now, "unsightly" is a rather vague
term for a regulation. He complained to me, and I told him he is the one
who chose to live there. When they mentioned the CC&Rs, I told them to
review them thoroughly and really tear them apart, but they never believed
anyone would complain about a dog house for a guide dog for the brief time
she was outside! Well, surprise, folks, some people will take the
vagueness and twist it to suit their agenda, even it it's only to distress
someone else. It is for that reason that we must be involved, to try to
keep things realistic for everyone not just allow the agenda of a very few.
off her soapbox for the day now
better day for planting, sunshine, drier soil, etc.
That is an issue that has been addressed over and over and over. Answers
are such as:
"It's going just fine."
"We didn't think what we said matters."
"I don't care"
There have not been any helpful suggestions; we try anything that anyone
thinks might work. We do get different faces depending on the topic.
This last meeting when the police department did a meth presentation was
reasonably well attended (better than most!), but even knowing a meth lab
might be next door didn't get folks to the meeting.
Our last several Boards have very actively tried to get people out to
attend meetings (this encompasses nine years). We always have a good
turnout for the annual neighborhood cleanup when they get to dump their
trash (not garbage) for free and have a good supply of yard debris dumped
at the recycling center (giving each household two truck loads free). We
usually have a reasonable turnout at socials. However, when it comes to
attending meetings, the interest just isn't there.
We've tried different nights, different times of the month, making certain
there is a monthly meeting so people can better remember (vs. every other
month which had also been tried). We get lots of comments about how great
our neighborhood park looks and the improvements there (done by the
association through a grant from the City which must be applied for by the
Even the meeting specifically about five Level III sex offenders living in
one house only had a dozen attendees. (Ours was the only neighborhood in
the county with that problem, and the house was located within two blocks
of the most popular Dairy Queen in the area.)
Effectiveness of our association? Ordinance has been changed to disallow
so many offenders in one household with State law being changed to reflect
similar regulations. The maintenance code is more reasonable. Our park
is not only attractive and safe, but also has good participation. We have
semi-effective traffic control within our neighborhood (nothing ever is
100 percent!). The list goes on and on. The residents like what the
association does, but do not regularly attend meetings.
One of our best attended meetings was, and this is absurd, when I created
a crossword puzzle about our neighborhood and put it in the newsletter.
The answers would only be available at the meeting. We actually had four
people attend the meeting only to get the answers!
We have speakers from various agencies (our best attended meeting was the
tax assessor talking last year when our property was being re-assessed!),
presentations from groups within the community, etc. We advertise well
ahead of time (via newsletter delivered to every household) of things that
will affect most people (sex offender concentration, junk ordinance, tax
issues, cleanups, etc.). Our newsletter usually carries articles written
by a variety of people from the neighborhood.
Sadly, our neighborhood is one of the more active. It is a universal
problem, at least in our community. Some associations are not at all
active. This is truly sad since our City agencies listen to our
neighborhood associations and act accordingly. Not all cities are so
fortunate to have a city government that responds to the citizens. The
greatest concern of all is that we will lose that. The two big issues this
past year (offenders and property maintenance) are a good example of how
we are listened to. With the offenders, there was only one neighborhood
involved, but we got action on it which has spread throughout the state
and will ultimately lead to housing and better help for the offenders who
no one wants next door but need someplace to live also. No one objected
to one here and there, but when there were eight in one household
including five Level III, that was way over the line. In that case, it
was the property owner that was really at fault as she actively solicited
the corrections department for renters . . . after all, she didn't live
Four citizens can complain about something and they are ignored. However,
those same four can be part of an association and send a representative to
a Council meeting, and they are heard and responded to. That is exactly
why those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a community with
City/County sponsored neighborhood associations need to be in involved.
If you cannot attend a meeting, simply call an officer and let them know
your thoughts or just a thank you. If an issue is going to be discussed
and you cannot attend a meeting, write a note and drop it off so your
voice is heard. There is no one so busy they cannot make a call or write
a note. I just don't believe that.
Being able to continue such things as growing a garden with a variety of
plants may be dependent on us speaking out. If I had not spoken up, no
gardener in our city would have been allowed to use non-commercially built
tomato cages or even bean poles or to have raised vegetable/flower beds,
or raspberries (and other branched berries). No one else cared that
attended any of the meetings; most only cared about appearance. I have a
garden and truly feel that I should be able to grow raspberries,
indeterminate tomatoes, and pole beans/peas if I choose to. It's all done
within my backyard which has a 5-6-foot chain link screened fence around
it, so how is it anyone's business? Gardens are not generally health
hazards or safety hazards. But because they aren't "manicured," many
people don't want them even allowed. Sadly, this could eventually happen
in any community if people don't pay attention.
If you have suggestions about participation at neighborhood association
meetings, we are all ears!
Thanks for the crossword puzzle hint. I'm going to suggest that to our
president (who will probably ask me to come up with one!) Wish I had
an idea to exchange. The best-attended meetings are those where
something controversial is to be discussed. I.e., building a
Walgreen's on a vacant corner. So people *do* care about some things.
The problem is figuring out what those are. :-)
I think most of these groups are composed of a few core people who
care about improving the neighborhood and think they *can* make a
difference. The rest attend the socials (the Easter Egg Hunt had
approx. 90 kids plus associated parents) but not the meetings, and
don't volunteer for anything. For neighborhood cleanup day (May 1st),
there's a free continental breakfast, free T-shirts and gloves, and a
free picnic in the park after a morning's work. We'll see how that
As for those with too much time on their hands, there are *always*
some of those in any neighborhood. There's one now on the board -- a
district rep (the area is divided into 9 districts) who doesn't like
the way some yards look. I hope the rest will be able to persuade him
that enforcing Codes & Compliance regs isn't the business of the
Association. At least he's out in the open and can be controlled.
It's very often the people *with* children who attend because they want
their community better for their children!
Interestingly enough, it was three childless people who went before
Council representing our neighborhood about the sex offender issue. Many
with children were just too busy, though they did attend the meetings to
decide what would be presented. The point is that, though they were busy
with family, they did take the time and effort to let the Board know how
they felt and the nature of their concerns. (FYI, all of the sex
offenders in the subject house were child molesters and the expressed
concerns to the Board were still minimal compared to our population.
That's truly apathy, especially considering it made the front page of our
local newspaper as well as television news on numerous occasions.)
Yup, it's *just fine* if you don't participate. Then one day you find out
an ordinance has been passed that affects the way *you* live and you get
These "committees" to which you refer are your neighbors, not some
government entity. They care about your neighborhood, not a centralized
agenda. They matter. Support them or be one or you'll lose some of your
No one says you have to volunteer. But keep your mouth shut if you don't
speak up when the decisions are being made. If you don't pay attention,
you just might wake up one day and find the things you have been doing as
part of your daily life are now not legal. You like to garden in your own
yard? Then you better pay attention.
On the line of gardening, many people on this group put bones and meat
into compost piles and use humanure . . . that is absolutely illegal in
our community. We have very strict laws regarding that.
Four of the proposed ordinances would have severely limited gardening.
Fortunately, there were some of us who listened to what was going on and
spoke up, pointing out the practical aspects of daily life and how the
wording could adversely affect those with vegetable gardens. Even now,
with the changes, some aspects of my garden could be considered in
violation if the absolute letter of the ordinance were enforced but are
things most of us do and think nothing about it.
It's clear you have not been involved in a neighborhood association. Most
of them are begging for people to be involved and truly want to know what
everyone wants. It does not carry prestige or glory! We are lucky,
however, to have people say thank you.
It's not another layer. Quite the contrary. It's more of a check on
government as well as balancing the "recommendations" of the monied and
powerful. Sadly, this comment of yours demonstrates that you are very
likely one of those who does not care what is going on until it limits
your own habits and then you complain. How truly sad.
No one is twisting your arm to get involved. Most of use who do bother
will say to keep your mouth shut about changes if you don't speak up. If
you don't want to be involved, don't. Also don't criticize those
responsible enough to get involved and have the ability to do so . . . and
make the time to do so. TIme, like money, is spent where you place your
Freedom, like any other "muscle," will only stay healthy when it is used.
It does require participation. If we want freedom, we must use it or
demonstrate that we do care if we have it.
Off to practice some freedom in her back yard!
(and glad her loganberry plants were not zoned
out of existence!)
All of this makes me enormously grateful that I do NOT live in a planned
community with a neighborhood association to tell me what to do.
I know a fellow in a suburb not far away that got an anonymous note in his
"In this neighborhood, we cut our lawns or FRIDAY!"
He moved, gesturing with a limited number of fingers as he left.
I'm in a "We don't care what you do as long as you don't frighten the
livestock" neighborhood. Suits me fine.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at www.albany.net/~gwoods
Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
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