For anyone that has read more
of my pages, you know that we, and especially Paul, are true
nature lovers. If you don't know what I am talking about,
TropicRiverWoods to see the botanical garden we are
designing and building in Panama.
past week has taught us a lot about living in a community that
is ruled by a Home Owner's Association. You see, Paul has
lived in this home since the day it was built in 1992. He was the first owner to move into our subdivision
of 80+ homes that is within the SilverLakes Home Owner's
Association comprising over 5,200 homes. I moved here in
1996. Being the avid gardener he is, ever since
the first day Paul moved in, he has designed and nurtured a
landscape that defies the limestone rock pit that lies just
below the surface.
you can see in the picture above, we have quite a haven for
birds, butterflies and other assorted
wildlife not to mention the back yard. Our home has even
been designated a wildlife habitat by
the National Wildlife Federation. But as you can also see
in the picture above, the decorative vent above the garage door
has a beautiful shade of aqua to complement the color scheme.
And there, folks, was the beginning of the end for
After 14 years of the
association keeping out scofflaws and generally keeping up the
community to a degree of respectability, while not trouncing on
personal creativity, it appears that a new regime has taken
over. We are not talking about the the management company
but the actual Board of Directors.
It all started a couple of
months ago when we received our first Notice of Violation from
Elaine W. (not her real name), our community over-seer. It was for that
terrible air vent. All of our homes have a certain color
scheme and even though the house and trim conforms to the
original color scheme, that vent violated it. Not to
mention that the vent had been that color for several years.
Okay folks, Paul called Elaine and asked why other subdivisions
have that color on their trim and vents and was acceptable.
She told him that each subdivision has their separate rules.
So Paul climbed the ladder and painted it to match the trim.
He then sent off a picture showing that the offending violation
had been taken care of. By the way, when you go to repaint
your house, make sure you have the Architectural Modification
Committee's approval; even if you are repainting the house the
SAME ORIGINAL APPROVED COLORS!
thereafter, we received another Letter of Violation
that the "point plants", better known as agaves, around the
mailbox (to the left) had to be removed.
Fine, even though they were there nearly eight years and the
Mail Carrier said they were not a problem, Paul once again
complied and did his magic, removing the offending "point
plants" and replacing them with soft grasses, miniature Crown of
Thorns and Desert Rose (on right). Paul then sent a
picture of the new and improved mailbox planting.
All was quiet for about two
months when we received the next two Notice of Violations.
One was for "design around mailbox not allowed" and the other
stated "overgrown plants". Mind you that all of these
violations come on standard forms with a blank line for the
violation so if you aren't sure what they are specifically
talking about, you have to call the community manager issuing
the violation. In this case, she did not return our calls
and we had to guess exactly what landscaping was overgrown.
We also looked at our
homeowner's documents and could not find anything about a
"design around mailbox" or anything about plantings around the
mailbox. And as far as overgrown plants, we spent a day
trimming, lifting trees, removing ferns etc. since we had to
guess what she was writing about.
Paul then sent her a letter,
with pictures once again, that we had taken care of the
violations. We heard nothing about them until the day
before going on vacation that, since the violations were not
remedied ??? that we were being fined $50.00 per day for each
violation and that the violations had to be immediately taken
care of or appear before the Homeowner's Code Enforcement Board.
Needless to say, the vacation was full of angst since nothing
could be done until we returned; we even thought about staying
here to take care of the "situation".
Paul chose, correctly, to plead his case about the difference
between overgrown (not being tended) and lush. Paul spends
at least 3 hours and day, sometimes more, before and after his
job. The yard is very well tended. An added benefit to having
such lush landscaping is not having to look at the neighbor's
homes. As with most people living here, we are unfortunate
enough to have living next door to us folks who just don't want
to do any gardening, or anything else with their homes for that
This is our
neighbors house to the left. They have since
painted the house, but not a drop of landscaping!
This is our
neighbors house to the right. They also have loose
tiles on the roof (you can see some on the ground in the
above picture) from Hurricane Wilma almost 3 years ago!
Well, we had to remove
EVERYTHING from around the mailbox. In addition, we had to
remove any plants that were within three feet of either side of
our property lines. When the Board of Director member came
by, we pointed out the houses on either side (see pictures
above) and also gave her
letters from all of our neighbors saying they enjoyed the
landscaping as it was.
She inferred that not only
did we coerce
the letters and besides, she didn't care what our neighbors had
to say; that we should only worry about our
home; not what our neighbors homes looked like! We spent nearly four thousand
($4,000.00) making "improvements" by removing plants, cutting
things back, re-sodding the one neighbors lawn at our expense
(even though their sprinkler system doesn't work) and on and on.
Long story short, it appears
that maybe someone didn't get all of the authority they needed
to pursue our situation. We were told to keep our yard tidy,
manageable and in compliance with current regulations and we
would be left alone.
So, my friends, the regulated
homeowner's association is not for everyone; especially those
who want to be more creative than three matching palm trees in
the yard. Beware stepping out of the box and plant lots of
grass to use more water.
By the way, thank you to
Chad B. and others who came to our rescue and can
appreciate a homeowner trying to make a difference.