Courtesy of The Florida Weekly
By Lindsey Nesmith
May 18, 2015
Homeowners associations are curious organizations. Most sane
people I know — the ones who work, bring up children and have lives — would
rather eat glass than install themselves in these petty dictatorships. It takes
a special type of person to involve himself (or herself) in strangers’ lives,
usually someone who enjoys passive-aggressive assault tactics to spy on his
neighbors or who employs one-strike-you’re-out policies so he doesn’t have to
use grown-up words to discuss problems.
Inevitably, the residents who get caught in the crosshairs are those who are too
busy managing their own lives. They are never on the board (ain’t nobody got
time for that), never around at 10 a.m. on a weekday to make a show of hosing
off the community sidewalk and typically are happy with the landscaping that has
been chosen for them. While they’re busy toiling away at their teaching or sales
jobs, the condo commandoes are eyeballing their driveway and figuring out how
long the toddler’s bike has been sitting near the doorway.
And God forbid they entertain. Suddenly, the condo commandoes start furiously
washing their cars and doing (unnecessary) yard work so they can keep tabs on
how many vehicles are in the driveway, where overflow is parking and whether
anyone has left a car bumper encroaching on the sidewalk after 9 p.m.
Should a resident actually address a real dilemma with the condo board, its
members often invoke the notion that perfect and enthusiastic compliance with
all rules and bylaws — 100 percent of the time, in perpetuity — is required for
negotiation. If a resident ever received a letter because his dues were two days
late (despite the fact that the manager waited four weeks to cash it), he has
relinquished all credibility and expectation of leniency.
It’s very important to remember that you only live there. This is not a
Let me say it again.
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY.
Despite the fact that you pay the mortgage, the property taxes, the fees and
much of maintenance and repairs on that home you foolishly liked, you are there
to indulge the whims and caprices of a group of busybodies.
The only way to win the war is to become one of them, which itself is a
hellscape beyond imagination.
Why should I care that my neighbor hides her dog’s walkie bags behind the bushes
until trash day? Why would I want to insert myself? Maybe her garage clicker
doesn’t work and she doesn’t want them in the house. Since we’re required to
keep trash bins in the garage (often considered an unhygienic fire hazard), what
she does makes sense to me.
The kicker, of course, is that associations are usually so busy picking on the
trees that the forest runs amok. It’s totally OK to tow residents’ cars from
their driveways without warning after midnight, but it’s unthinkable to send
that same tow truck down the residential roads in broad daylight pick off cars
blocking the right of way. People would know what they were doing! They might
have to explain themselves!
Standards are nice. So are privacy, transparency and adult conversations —
because homeowners associations are unavoidable in most parts of Naples.
I often wonder how neighborhoods were allowed to naturally evolve in parts of
the country that have a firmer grasp on reality. What possibly motivates people
to live in a compound where your guests are interrogated upon entry, but the
gate guard gives a tow truck driver free access to the community at 2 a.m.?
And unfortunately, reason never prevails. Wellintentioned neighbors join boards
thinking they’re going to change things for the better; inevitably, they drink
the Kool-aid instead. I cannot even conceive of an instance where I would be
moved to join a board.
Run for public office? It would be an extraordinary circumstance, but I could
Fill my head with speculation and hearsay about 300 strangers? Never.