Re: garden police gone wild?



And they can then get you with one of those "run-down" laws. :/
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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.
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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.
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wrote:

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 getting initiated.
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On Sat, 03 Apr 2004 23:14:49 GMT, "FDR"

"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.
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wrote

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 decide things.
"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?
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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 something.
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 self-appoint! ;-)
Janice
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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 tolerance.

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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.
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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, y'know?
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 sitcom...
...but that's just me.
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net writes:

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!
Glenna who purchased a little concrete frog and a turtle to put among the herbs
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writes:

It sounds like a horror to live in a place where neighbors have any say about such things.
Bob
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snipped-for-privacy@nowhere.com writes:

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 last words!)
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 not beautiful).
Time to rototill, haul manure, and buy some super tomato plants!
Glenna
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writes:

Have you bothered to ask people why they don't participate? I bet you could learn a lot by their answers.
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snipped-for-privacy@invalid.com writes:

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.
Glenna off her soapbox for the day now better day for planting, sunshine, drier soil, etc.
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_remove_spam_block snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com writes:

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" Etc. 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 neighborhood).
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 here.
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!
Glenna
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On Sun, 04 Apr 2004 10:33:53 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@pmug.org (Glenna Rose) wrote:

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 turns out.
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.
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_remove_spam_block snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com writes:

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 really upset.
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 choices.

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 priorities.
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.
Glenna Off to practice some freedom in her back yard! (and glad her loganberry plants were not zoned out of existence!)
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writes:

Do you read what you are writing and see how absurd that is?

I bet they are begging because some "group" wields so much unwarranted power.
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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 mailbox: "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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