Sunday, August 17, 2008


While everyone in the country has been debating Obama vs McCain, there has been a different political discussion going on in my little slice of suburbia.

I happen to live under the fascist regime of a Homeowners Association (HOA). Actually, I am one of those people who see the merits of having a HOA that actually does something.

Two years ago we moved into our current development and were quickly ushered into the world of HOA's, covenants, architectural committees and the like. Evidently I hadn't read the rules and regulations thoroughly and we received a violation notice that we failed to get prior approval for our fence. We had put up the right style, but had not jumped through all the hoops.

Our neighborhood is small and most residents take great pride in maintaining the appearance of their home. Since the homes are starting to age, the HOA Board decided it was time for a "walk through" to see if all homes are in compliance with the rules and regulations. We didn't think much of it, knowing that we would probably get cited for our lawn (last year's drought and ant infestation wiped out most of the actual grass and left us with a yard full of weeds and bare spots).

Almost all the homeowners received some type of violation, including us. A number of homeowners took great offense with the violation notices that came out. Instead of discussing the violations with the board, or appealing the violation, one person in particular decided that it required taking action to actually re-call the board. She browbeat other neighbors into signing a petition and thus created a great deal of animosity among neighbors.

Being friends with the president of the board has given us a different view of the situation. I anxiously awaited the meeting where the vote would occur. I wanted to go and support the board, but I was also curious to hear the other side's argument. in the days leading up to the meeting, I watched as the leader of the disgruntled homeowners visited neighbors in an effort to sway them to her side. It even appeared as though she went door to door with proxies trying to round up votes in her favor (a clear violation of the bylaws). She even managed to corner Pat. She must have caught him on a good day since he was able to maintain composure and POLITELY tell her that though he was not pleased to receive our violations, he felt that she was going to extremes to kick out the current board. She ought to go through the process to appeal and/or get the rules changed. I guess she didn't like what he had to say since that was the last we saw of her.

The long awaited meeting was last week. The place was packed. More than one person commented that it was a shame that it took this issue to get so many bodies out to a meeting. The air in the room was warm and full of tension. Neighbor hesitating to talk to neighbor unless they were sure of what side the other was on. It was painful. It got ugly. The board managed to keep control, but at the expense of alienating a few (no one likes to have a gavel pounded to let you know your time is up, or that things are getting out of hand).

With the comment section over it was time for the vote. The board decided it would be an open vote where each household would declare their vote out loud, even all proxies would be read. This was akin to polling a jury to get a verdict. This angered the opposition greatly and only added to the tension in the room. the first task was to determine who could actually vote. Since there were about 3 proxies from people who were not in "good standing" (they owed some amount of money), their votes did not count. It was a close vote and it was not until the final count that it was determined that the vote to keep the board was 21 to 19.

Unfortunately it doesn't feel like a victory. It is clear that there is now a rift among the neighbors that is large. There is still talk of each side having played "dirty pool". There have been poor displays of behavior since, and speculation that the fight is not over.

We are supposed to have a neighborhood ice cream social to celebrate the start of school soon. I hope the hatchet can be buried, at least for the kid's sake.

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