During the 80s and 90s, I owned and ran a design service. One of my specialties was custom home plans.
I cannot count the hours I spent pouring over community ordinances, city zoning laws, community development restrictions, etc. I can say that I was
almost always amazed when I did so. It seemed someone had stayed awake at night thinking of ways they could restrict people from living on their own
- No satellite dishes or antennas for TV reception
- No clothes lines; use a dryer.
- No cars parked overnight in a driveway; they must be in a garage.
- No gardens.
- Lawn must be maintained to within a certain height (3" is common)
- Any fencing must be chain-link and maintained.
- No bare areas in lawn.
- Driveways must be concrete or asphalt.
- Restrictions on lawn furniture.
- Restrictions on porch furniture.
That's a partial list... and the crazy thing (to me) is that the more restrictions an area had, the more expensive it was to buy into the community.
But, 'tis not my job to wonder why, and I did my job very well. I appeared before quite a few boards to get variances for my customers.
Maybe that's why this happened:
I owned an older Colonial home with a two-story front porch. The house actually predated the city. Sometime before I bought it, someone apparently
thought a nice coat of paint would stop the rot inside the porch roof and I never climbed all the way up there to check it. When the paint peeled off,
I realized my mistake.
Long story short: I was given an order by the City Building Department to repair the porch. I could not do the work to replace it like it was
originally in the time allotted, so I tore the old roof off, topped the columns, and installed a weatherproof deck on the second floor. While I was
working on the deck, I was issued a summons to appear in City Court for violations. Silly me had forgotten to get a permit; no problem, I drove down
to get the permit to do what I had been ordered to do by the people issuing the permit. But that wasn't enough. I was served another summons, this
time for failure to have handrails around a second-floor deck that was still under construction.
I won that case, embarrassing the head Inspector in the process, but that was only the beginnings of my problems. Eventually I simply let them condemn
the building, sold it for a song, and moved back home. Then came the funniest part: I had been buying a city business license for several years, and
after moving away I received a phone call from the city. They were upset about me not buying a city license that year. I explained that I no longer
ran the business in their city and did not own property in the city. They didn't care... apparently they expected me to continue paying for a city
business license after driving me out of the city!
Of course, I didn't.
The real problem is this: people have given up their rights to own their property in return for making sure everything always looks perfect. Local
governments have decided that they deserve the power to enforce this (even when no restrictions are specified in the deed). As a result, people inside
cities now believe they have not only a right but a duty to control what others do on property they purchased. Welcome to the city.
Out here, no one, and I mean no one, tells me what I do on my land. I have evicted the game warden several times. The police, when they do come up,
come up because someone who lives here called them. When I built my shop, I didn't fill out any paperwork; I swiped my debit card at the lumber
company. I plant what I want to plant (within certain laws) and eat whatever I grow. My water comes from a well; I water my garden or wash my car
whenever I want to; water use restrictions do not apply to me. I burn brush in an open brush pit when I decide it is time to burn it.
I live my life and leave my neighbors alone. They live their lives and leave me alone. Welcome to the country.
All of these communities use home'owner' annual payments to subsidize their operation. These are paid through the mortgage escrow. Now, when these
houses become foreclosures, and the banks refuse to pay, what will happen to these community overseers? They will cease to exist. And all that will be
left of this manicured vision of perfection will be empty houses in disrepair with yards grown head-high. It reminds me of an old saying:
"When man disposes of waste, we call it a landfill and it is uninhabitable for hundreds of years. When nature disposes of waste, we call it a
beach and flock there in droves.
This story is indicative of homes once regulated to be perfect losing their ability to do so. Those that are truly hurt are those who are the poorest
and need hurt the least. They do not own the property any more; they own the privilege of living there as long as they follow the rules someone once
implemented. Thank God above, I am out of this type of life.