Article Courtesy of
The East Valley Tribune
Posted July 18, 2005
recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain has created a firestorm of
criticism. Many folks simply do not believe that itís right that a
personís property can be taken away and given to a commercial developer.
"I have great concerns about the rulings,íí
said Cynthia Dunham of The Leadership Centre in Gilbert. "I think the
present property rights are somewhat sacred. I donít like this business
where you take private property and give it to another private entity."
is an interesting observation from Dunham, whose group is an advocate of
homeowners associations (HOAs).
Interesting because, when you get right down to it,
HOAs have long used a de facto form of eminent domain.
Eminent domain is the practice of seizing private
property for the greater good of the general public. For example, eminent
domain could be imposed to clear the path for a new highway or hospital, etc.
The HOA version of that practice would be seizing a home that has been
neglected in order to preserve the value of surrounding homes. Foreclosing on
that home protects the greater good of the community.
"When you become a member of an HOA, you have
entered voluntarily into a contract,íí Dunham said. "Thatís vastly
different.íí The result isnít much different,
though. Ask Shelece Yoakum.
Yoakum lives in The Provinces neighborhood in
Chandler. Monday night, sheíll face her HOA board and expects the board to
inform her it is beginning foreclosure proceedings.
Basically, Yoakum faces foreclosure because she
painted her house the wrong shade ó a brownish gray.
Dunham says it is unfair to compare the Supreme Court
ruling to whatís happening in HOAs. She says itís a horse of a different
color. In Yoakumís case, it is, rather, a house of a different color and a
clear example of how a good idea can be corrupted.
In its genesis, HOAs were formed so that cities would
not have the burden of taking care of things like neighborhood pools, parks
and open spaces. Now HOAs can dictate what sort of flag you can fly on your
flagpole, where you can park your car and what color you can paint your house.
HOA supporters say itís not as though home buyers
donít have a choice. "If you donít want to live in an HOA, then you
can select a home somewhere else,íí Dunham said. But even she admits
thatís becoming easier said than done.
Budget-strapped cities are demanding that developers
form HOAs in their new communities in order to bear the burden of maintaining
the neighborhoods, which means folks like Shelece Yoakum have fewer choices.
For all the uproar over things like the Patriot Act or
eminent domain, a greater threat to personal freedom may be the neighbor who
serves on your HOA board.