Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some People are Just Not Subdivision Material

Up until three and a half years ago, we lived in a neighborhood. There was no overall theme--the homes were whatever style the owner chose, and the lots were anywhere from half an acre to four acres. We had two acres with a brick house built in the sixties that I absolutely adored. Sugar called it Barbie's Dream House, and it was. It was Southern traditional--big front porch, screened porch in back, lots of big oak trees in the yard.

But... we travel a lot, and two acres of yard plus a large house with fifty-year-old parts that needed continuous maintenance made us think life would be less complicated if we had less to take care of. Small house, big scrapbook, we said to ourselves. Simplify.

I REALLY wanted to live in downtown Greenville, where we could walk to dinner, or to Falls Park, and could ride our bikes through the park trails without having to load them up on the bike rack. Sugar was not so keen on this idea, as ninety-five percent of the real estate in downtown Greenville is condos. "But our back yard would be Falls Park," I said. Sugar gave in on the condition that we would rent for a year, and if we liked it, we'd buy.

We sold Barbie's Dream House, and moved into a 1,200 square-foot condo half a block from Falls Park. Despite all the amenities of downtown living that we both loved, within six months we were both claustrophobic. No patio, no deck--no place for Sugar's grill.

We started looking at new houses, ones that didn't need anything done to them. The beautiful homes in neighborhoods that border downtown Greenville were older than the one we'd sold, so we looked further out. A subdivision, we thought, is the middle ground. Half acre yard, new house.

Covenants and restrictions? Oh, those are just to protect your property value--to make sure folks don't put up outhouses and such in the backyard. This is the fiction we were sold. Don't ever let anyone tell you this.

I believe there are three kinds of people on any given Architectural Review Committee:

Type One, the well-meaning sorts, who volunteer because they want to do the right thing, give back, etc. These are the minority, and they will be worn down to a nub by the rest of them, and likely take to strong drink.

Type Two are dragged in kicking and screaming, or perhaps convinced when they've had a few martinis, by their friends who are Type Ones. Type Twos will hide when trouble starts, and it will.

Type Three are the folks who want to be in charge. They have a driving need to decide what is best for all, and then shove it down their neighbors' throats. They will rule the ARC in any homeowners association because they are the most invested. They crave POWER. Likely, they were bullied in high school.

Two and a half years later, we love the house, but have ascertained that we are not subdivision people. We're rebels. If, on Saturday afternoon, we decide we want to put a trellis in front of the air conditioner compressor, we don't want to have to draw a picture, fill out forms, and wait FORTY-FIVE DAYS for the Architectural Review Committee to approved it (or not).

And don't get me started on the trees. The ARC has tried to dictate which trees we can plant and in what configuration. Thankfully, the attorney who drew up the covenants and restrictions assures me this is unenforceable, not covered in the covenants and restrictions, and ridiculous.

We're currently working on a scheme with our old neighbors--the ones who live next to Barbie's Dream House--to convince the folks we sold it to that the place is haunted so they'll leave. In the meantime, I'm thinking of taking up sculpture and creating a heinous piece of orange and pink yard art with tassels and old shoes stuck on.

Peace, out...

Susan

14 comments:

Valerie said...

Too funny! We live in a covenant-rich neighborhood, but we don't have to mow, edge, trim, or put out the pinestraw, so my husband's happy. I'm not a yard-work person (there are bugs and worms in that dirt!) so I don't care. But we used to live in a neighborhood with covenants that were ignored--and ended up next to the house with the driveway full of junk AND junk cars, with the dormer window taken out and left out for a year, with cars parked amid the trees out back, and, by the time the houses were 20 years old, his deck was so decrepit it fell down. And stayed there. I'd rather have enforced covenants!

Susan M. Boyer said...

I'm thinking not havng to mow, edge, or put out pine-straw sounds like a sweet deal. :)

Bob Strother said...

Egad! We've been thinking of giving up our charming but yard-intensive home and moving to a subdivision with a secluded writing room for me and a chill-out room for Vicki. We may have to rethink that idea.

Susan M. Boyer said...

If you ever decide to sell your house, call me before you call a realtor. I can hire a yard service. :)

Anonymous said...

Susan,
As you know, we're in your camp! I've talked with an attorney who says the nastiest cases he's ever handled are Homeonwer Association blowups. Sure, Valerie, everyone is for enforcing basic covenants--but the power mongers won't leave it at that. They want to add new covenants or new "interpretations" so they can enforce their idea of good taste--from "appropriate" plantings to whether rain barrels and composting are unseemly.
Linda

Anonymous said...

As of the last 2 years I am ready for a gated community. So far both my bedroom windows were broken and last week a golf ball went through my storm door.....and we don't live on a golf course! Oh and when I wanted to have my fence put up (we took out the old) and I was told I needed to go to the architectual community, when I inquired I was told there was no one in the slot and I should be ok and just do it. So I did it! But we have a home that looks like a junk yard and they never enforce the covenants. Betty

Melinda Walker said...

I heard the residents of one Eastside subdiv (which shall remain nameless, lest it alert their Covenant Cops) have to hide their tomato plants among their Approved Flowers to avoid censure. (I remembered that just now while I was picking tomatoes for a lunch salad from my really ugly late-summer garden.)
BTW, there's a building lot for sale next to our place at the bottom of Paris Mountain. Of course, the house on the other side of it has curtains on the OUTSIDE of the windows. Guess there's always a trade off.

Susan M. Boyer said...

How big is that lot? :) Maybe if I buy an Airstream trailer and become a gypsy, we could use that as home base... Curtains on the outside? Of the house??

Donnell said...

Ah, Susan, I so feel your pain. I live in my dream house, AND I am on my neighborhood's Architectural Control Committee LOL. There are some who take the responsibility/volunteering to the extreme -- as if it's crucial to world peace. Covenants do serve a purpose. I don't want Earl's septic truck parked next door, but I don't think a basketball hoop is going to destroy the property value.

Good luck spooking the new owners of your old house. My DH says we're downsizing in three years. I will tell him your story so he'll reconsider.

Subdivision material, but careful about it....

Susan M. Boyer said...

Ha! Donnell, I'm sure you're a Type One. I hope you're not driven to (too much) strong drink. :)

Carole said...

To have only read this blog before we purchased in a subdivision. It is very very annoying. It is absolutely everyhting you are mentioning. And now the housing market is in the toilet so we can't get out. UGH.

Carole said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gladys said...

If your ARB monsters are like mine, they will undoubtedly nitpick about rusty Corvettes on cinder blocks, plastic wall-climbing units, and which shade of yellow is allowable for potted mums. But do their policies address PEOPLE? Probably not. Therefore, I hereby happily volunteer to hold vigil in your yard (next time you and Sugar are out of town, of course) with my eclectic group of friends. Members of this motley crew include about a dozen peace-loving, guitar-strumming, ever-soliciting-new-recruits Moonies, Sven and Isla (a scantily-clad, cross-dressing Swedish couple that tend to become amorous in public), and 8 or 9 sassy, snuff-dipping senior ladies who foster rescued llamas and the occasional ostrich. (The ladies and the llamas have been known to engage in spitting wars.) A week-long protest party in the Boyer front yard would surely result in homeowner policy changes, though perhaps not the type you're hoping for. Most importantly, though, we'd have a blast witnessing your ARB coots wedge their heads further up their asses. ;~)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Gladys, I'm holding my sides, crying, and gasping for air. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a while. The image will stay in my head, and I'll think about it whenever I run across one of the ARC police. No doubt they'll pause to wonder why I suddenly find them so amusing. :)