Homeowners Associations

 Posted by on 11 August 2009 at 11:01 pm  Animals, Law
Aug 112009

The homeowner’s association in our rural-ish neighborhood is fairly benign. We don’t have many restrictions on what we can build on or do with our property, although we do have some dumb provisions in our covenants.

For example, our five-acre properties are limited to three horses each, whereas the county would permit ten horses. That’s dumb: three horses can be a major nuisance if not cared for properly, while ten horses can be perfectly fine if managed well. Moreover, the three-horse limit means that an ordinary family with three or more riders might not be able to accommodate their perfectly ordinary number of horses. So the restriction doesn’t address the potential nuisance, yet excludes many potential home buyers. Its sole virtue is that it’s easily enforceable.

Even more strangely, the covenants place no restrictions on the number of livestock animals, except that they cannot be raised for commercial purposes. So I simply must comply with the county rules, namely:

In the ER/RR zoning districts and in the A-1 and LRR districts parcels 2.3 to 8.9 acres in area, the number of animals is limited to 1 animal per half acre for large animals, such as, cows, horses, mules or llamas, and 4 animals per half acre for smaller animals, i.e., sheep, goats, swine, miniature horses, or alpacas.

Since I have just over five acres, I can have two horses, sixteen pigs, and sixteen sheep. Or forty goats. Or ten cows. Or five cows and twenty goats. I could go on, but you get the idea. Oh and on top of that, I can have up to 30 chickens and 50 rabbits. While I do plan to get another horse and some livestock in the next year, once my new barn is finished, I don’t think I’ll be anywhere near those limits!

Unfortunately, the homeowner association’s approval process for my new barn was quite frustrating and time-consuming. The problem wasn’t the members of the board or the architectural committee but rather some perpetually troublesome neighbors who thought they had a right to veto my building plans, regardless of the covenants. My barn was approved in the end, albeit after much delay. Yet the process of hearing and appeasing one particular neighbor’s irrational demands made my stomach turn. He has no conception of or concern for property rights — on principle. So he’s working with the county to prevent the development of a neighboring ranch because any such development would would mar a small part part of the mountain view he’s enjoyed for 30 years. He had the same approach to my property: he’d been looking at my cruddy wood barn for decades, so he had a right to continue looking at it if he pleased, rather than being subject to the sight of a much nicer steel barn. Even worse, the barn wasn’t even really in his field of view, as he’s on a tall hill to my southwest, facing west. It was absurd — and deeply offensive. He was just wanting to assert his authority.

Paul and I plan to stay in our current home for the foreseeable future; it suits our needs quite well. However, if we do ever move, we will be sure to avoid a “covenant-protected community” like the plague, even if that means forgoing some benefits we’ve enjoyed here — particularly our well-maintained trails and a beautiful sand riding ring. Those benefits are simply not worth the cost of being in any way subject to petty, power-lusting neighbors.

Advocates of free markets often point to covenants as an alternative to zoning and other land-use laws. They’re right — and people should be free to form and promote such neighborhoods if they wish. However, as many people can attest, covenant-controlled neighborhoods can be magnets for the worst kinds of people. Or rather, a few awful people can exert undue influence — using the threat of lawsuits and the trouble of moving — to keep everyone in thrall to their petty whims. That’s a solution far, far worse than the problem of messy neighbors.

Well, I began this post with the intent of just providing a bit of introduction for this hysterical exchange between neighbors about Devil Worship And Christmas Lights. I must be more bitter than I realized about the barn approval. In any case, go read those e-mails. I nearly died with laughter.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha