Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Landscaping and the Home Owner's Association
Warning, this post is a major rant and will probably be quite lengthy. Kudos to those of you who take the time to read this one.
First of all, I want to say that Noblesville is a wonderful community and a great place to raise a family. For the most part, I love my neighborhood and I have many wonderful neighbors. I also have enjoyed my home even though I despise the location, which is right beside the neighborhood common/playground area.
Unfortunately though, my home is in a neighborhood with covenant restrictions and a Home Owner's Association, (hereafter referred to as HOA), to enforce those restrictions. My rant today is not about covenant restrictions in general but the absurdity of one rule in particular. Those of you who are serious gardeners will easily understand my frustrations with this issue.
The Covenant Restrictions Document states:
(i) Generally, No dwelling, building structure or improvement of any type or kind shall be constructed or placed on any lot in the Development without the prior approval of the Committee, except for original home construction by a builder who has entered into a contract with the Developer to purchase lots. Such approval shall be obtained only after written application has been made to the Committee by the owner of lot requesting authorization from the Committee. Such written application shall be in the manner and form prescribed from time to time by the Committee, and shall be accompanied by two (2) complete sets of plans and specifications for any such proposed construction or improvement. Such plans shall include plot plans showing the location of all improvements existing upon the lot and the location of the improvement proposed to be constructed or placed upon the lot, each properly and clearly designated. Such plans and specifications shall set forth the color and composition of all exterior materials proposed to be used and any proposed landscaping, together with any other materials or information which the Committee may require. All building plans and drawings required to be submitted to the Committee shall, be drawn to a scale of 1/4" = 1' and all plot plans shall be drawn to scale of 1" = 30', or to such other scale as the Committee shall require. There shall also be submitted, where applicable, the permits or reports required under Paragraph 3 of these
For most people this restriction would be difficult to fully understand and there's obviously a lot here that is left open to interpretation. I'm only going to focus, (or rather rant), on the landscaping part of this restriction. I'm am officially dragging out the soapbox now and climbing on.
Somehow, in the beginning stages of our neighborhood HOA, someone decided that this restriction was to include all landscaping and it was interpreted to mean that all plants over eighteen inches tall had to be approved by the Architectural Committee. Let me repeat that for those of you who might at this point be dumbfounded. Any perennial or permanent plant added to a homeowner's property, that is over eighteen inches tall, has to be drawn to scale and submitted to the Arch Committee for approval, which can take thirty days or longer to get said approval. (At this point in my rant, I'm purposefully refraining from making any comments regarding anyone's intelligence, since I really do like these people.)
Now, I don't have to tell you garden bloggers how absurd this is. You're probably already thinking about the many ways this would seriously limit your creativity in your garden. Not to mention those impulse buys at the garden centers when you spot a great must have plant, especially if it's on sale.
Can you imagine, you're at your favorite nursery and they have that gorgeous 'Diana, Princess of Wales' rose bush that you have coveted ever since Kylee from Our Little Acre posted about hers, and it's on sale for a song. What to do? They'll all be gone before you get approval from the Arch Committee, and it really needs to be planted right away since it's at the end of the season, and where are you even going to put it? You're going to have to move some things around because you really want more than one. Oh, no! Will they even approve it? Your yard is already so crowded with plants that some of your neighbors are already beginning to talk about you and your gardening obsession. Hmm...you think to yourself, since they are bare root roses that are only fifteen inches tall right now, you won't have to get them approved, or will you? So you throw caution to the wind and buy several bare root 'Diana, Princess of Wales' rose bushes, take them home and move several things around to make room for your new roses. Now, because you're a good citizen and want to be a good neighbor, you have to get that Architectural Review Form, and draw to scale the changes you made in your landscape, (when you can't even draw stick people), and submit it for approval, (all the while knowing that according to the restrictions this should have been done before buying a single thing). Now you hold your breath hoping that your next door neighbor, (who heads up the Arch Committee, and who looks at you a little funny now, ever since he saw you army crawling around on the ground with your camera in your hand), approves your new roses and landscaping changes.
Here is another scenario. Let's say you planted a single Echinacea last year and you didn't cut it back after it bloomed since the finches love the seed heads. Now this year you have ten new Echinaceas growing that you didn't even plant, not to mention the Verbena bonariensis that is sprouting up everywhere. All of a sudden you remember that every new plant over eighteen inches tall has to be submitted to the Arch Committee for approval. Remembering your embarrassment and frustration with getting approval for your roses, you quickly weed out the new plants because it is just too much trouble to draw everything to scale and submit it, especially when you didn't even plant the stupid things to begin with.
O.K. those two scenarios are embellished, but here's a situation that actually happened a few years back. One neighbor was approached by the HOA president and he told her that she couldn't have that tree growing in her yard, that it hadn't been approved. She told him that she didn't plant it, it grew all by itself. Imagine that! Plants having the audacity to grow in our neighborhood without approval!
I just can't imagine anyone not seeing the absurdity in this rule.
Let me stop now to say that this rant actually has a purpose. You see, I'm now serving on the dreaded and much hated HOA board, which just last month combined with the Arch committee. I want to see this absurd rule changed. In fact that is one of my passionate goals during my three year term. I'm already getting resistance from some, but I am not one to back down easily.
This rule is not the restriction, it is someone's interpretation of the restriction and that can easily be changed by the HOA board.
I'm gathering information and doing research so that I can be well equipped and armed to get this silly rule changed. I'd love it if you all could give me your insight on this. What would you do if your HOA, (if you had one), operated with this kind of rule.
Oh, and be nice in your comments please.