Archive for September 3rd, 2008
You might remember this post wherein the future of my garden is threatened by my neighborhood’s Home Owners Association. You might also remember my carefully worded and researched reply. I hadn’t heard anything in response and, being very ADHD and somewhat passive-aggressive, I didn’t follow up on it. No news is good news, as they say. Well, I finally got news. Just as Fay was starting to really blow, we discovered our upstairs window was leaking. As we were frantically moving bookshelves and pulling up carpet and trying to stem the flood, the postal carrier pulls into our driveway to deliver a certified letter. From our HOA.
In short, they decided to forward the matter to their attorney. “With no positive response to previous notice, the Board has no other option except to proceed with legal action.” So either my response was not “positive” enough or they didn’t give a shit about what I had to say. Naturally, I felt it necessary to respond:
Dear Board of Directors:
We were very disappointed to receive the Final Notice of Violation dated August 19, 2008. Especially disturbing was the statement that no positive response had been sent with regard to the prior notice. Apparently the letter attached to emails sent to the board members and the hardcopy mailed to the [management company] office did not count as positive response. Perhaps we do not understand the bureaucratic processes of home owners associations.
We are attaching a copy of the previous letter we sent in response. Furthermore, a hard copy has been sent out the the address listed above via certified mail, return receipt requested. We hope that this will constitute sufficient response to the violations. If any further information is needed, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are very interested in working with the board to resolve this matter.
Now here’s where my expectations came crashing into reality. What I expected was a dialog between reasonable parties where the issue could be discussed and resolved in a professional manner, even if the boards decision went against me. In my original response, I included reasonable questions requesting clarifications on the rules and advice on how to best follow them in the event the board did not see fit to rule in my favor. What I received was something much different:
I for one live on the street as this vegetable garden and it is a sight. It keeps getting bigger and bigger and looks terrrible. She can build a fence even though she is on a corner lot. I say we stick to the no vegetable gardens and if you are considering changing this, drive by and have a look yourself. It will change your mind. This is my thought
Now, a home owners association is a quasi-legal organization with the authority to file liens on your home and even to initiate foreclosure. The board of directors act as the representatives of this body and, indeed, of all the members of the community. That a member of the board would feel that this was an appropriate response to a reasonable discussion of policy came a quite a shock. In addition to the factual errors (the garden hasn’t grown since it was established, unless you count the growing of the plants) the attitude just blew my mind. After the shock came anger. Much anger. Darth Vader-type anger. If I could have force-choked this individual, I probably would have. While I despise bureaucracy, I have an appreciation for the niceties and formalities that generally accompany legal proceedings. I would expect this kind of reply in a blogs comments section or on some internet forum. Coming from one of the leaders of an organization that, quite literally, could force me out of my home was disgusting.
At this point, the representative of the management company that our HOA hired to handle all the paperwork and act as enforcer decided to throw in her $0.02:
They have received 3 notices and they haven’t removed the vegetable garden. What more needs to be discussed?
This person has no role on the board, has no decision-making authority and has absolutely no business interfering in a discussion between the board and a resident. At least that’s my opinion. Besides which, she was completely incorrect. We did respond and have been trying to engage the board in a dialog. Which they apparently are steadfastly trying to avoid.
Fortunately, not all the members of the board are such small-minded individuals. Later, another member offered their take. While well-meaning, it was full of fallacies that I will address in-line below.
I did read your letter that you sent, you did respond,
Good of you to notice. You’d think that maybe this could be relayed to the guard dogs that the board hires to do its dirty work.
I believe the notice is referring to the action that needs to happen. It clearly states as you have noted that vegetable gardens are not allowed in the neighborhood unless properly contained.
No shit, why do you think I was writing a response?
I can totally appreciate where you are coming from in your letter, growing your own produce is very beneficial, I myself do it, but it is contained in pots on the back porch and in a tiny fenced area in the back of the home displayed neatly. I have driven and walked by your home on several occasions and recognized your vegetation as an eye sore. Tomato bushes in general grow rather wildly, the manner in which you have planted them is the problem.
So in other words, tomato plants are ugly and shouldn’t be planted in a Square Foot Garden, only in “tiny fenced areas” because that’s how you like them.
The wood enclosure which surrounds the plants looks bad and the location that you choose is random.
Two things wrong here: the wood enclosures are cedar planks used for the siding of houses. They form a border 8″ high around the square beds. Not exactly a hideous bit of landscaping. And their location was FAR from random. The two beds are exactly 36″ apart and stand 36″ from the nearest landscaping, to allow for the passage of the lawn mower. They were placed on the south side of my house which recieves direct sunlight all day long.
It is obvious that you have a green thumb and I think that is great, speaking for myself I would not like for you to tear them up, just move them and make it look neat. I know you have a patio just off of your slider, why not plant the vegetation to the left of that patio and put some PVC 12″ fencing around it with some trellising? We have a long weekend ahead of us, maybe this could be a project for you.
Nice thought, but that location is in perpetual shadow and is so waterlogged that the only thing that will grow there are swamp plants. There’s about an hour a day that the sun can penetrate most of the back yard. The south side is the only viable location.
I think your property would look a lot nicer is you chose to take my advice, I am not sure what the other Board members might think about your garden because quite honestly we haven’t discussed it.
In retrospect, this part bothers me more than anything else. The association documents outline a process for handling violations that includes the right of the homeowner to respond and seek relief. What’s the fucking point of allowing a response if you’re not even going to address it?
I do wish you well, I hope my response has helped, feel free to contact me again. My intent is not to hurt any feelings, just to be honest and helpful, constructive criticism, I hope you see it this way.
I don’t give a shit about hurt feelings or how you hope I see it. What I see is an HOA BOD with a disregard for its residents and a rigid mindset that says that the only attractive yard is one that looks like theirs; i.e. chemical-drenched St. Augustine grass and landscaping completely unsuited to the Florida climate that can only be maintained by regular chemical applications and the waste of thousands of gallons of water. I see a board with no concept of professionalism and apparently with poor reading comprehension skills, since they didn’t address my clearly worded questions.
Well, as per my standard response to all bureaucratic and authoritarian bullshit, fuck ‘em. Unfortunately, this attitude can result in even more financial problems that I really don’t need right now. I don’t have the time or energy to fight this kind of crap. I’m dealing with a combination of stupidity, small mindedness and apathy. The amount of shit I’d have to go through to get these people out, assuming that the rest of the neighborhood isn’t populated with the same type of people, is just too much right now. I’ve got a wife and two kids and a stressful job. Gardening used to be an outlet for my stress, a form of meditation. Guess I’ll have to get back on the cushion, ’cause the garden has gone bye-bye.
I’m not a scientist. It would be a real stretch to even try to classify myself as a computer scientist since I don’t do any of that fancy theoretical-AI-quantum-researchy stuff. But I’m addicted to the Science Blogs. Some of the stuff is so far over my head that it’s like a 6 foot tall person is holding it up and taunting me with it (I’m only 5′ 5″). But one of my talents is the ability to pick up concepts based on context, so I can generally figure out what’s going on.
At any rate, sometimes things pop up there that anyone can appreciate. Indeed, part of the mission over there at SB is to promote science education and accessibility. So even if you’ve never wielded a pipette in a lab, you should be able to appreciate this product marketing directed at our esteemed scientists working to make the world a better place.
I can’t stop humming it. I haven’t felt the need to watch a music video multiple times since I first found “White and Nerdy“.