I’m new to this Homeowners’ Association (HOA) thing. They feel fairly ubiquitous — even Tia, with a lot way out in Parlin, has an HOA — but it’s nothing I’ve had to deal with directly in all my years.
It does turn out that the Palisades subdivision came with covenants, but no one knew that until one resident, miffed at neighbors up the street who owned a trash truck, went digging. The upshot was a whole lot of fuss over nothing: while they addressed fences and livestock, the 1960s covenants didn’t address trash trucks. There also didn’t appear to be any mechanism — or general will from the Palisades populace — to enforce anything anyway.
Every household got a copy of the covenants, and I think subsequent buyers were supposed to receive a copy, but the whole thing was pretty much forgotten as quickly as it arose. I don’t know where my copy is, and I certainly didn’t pass anything along to our buyers, and they can live in oblivious bliss, unaware that there are supposed to be Rules.
But here at Riverwalk, we have the piece missing from the Palisades: a board, and that makes all the difference.
Is it the most active board? No. Looking at the board minutes posted on the website that was put up for property selling purposes, I see we appear to be seven to eight months behind in holding an annual meeting. There is a budget for 2018, but I’m not sure how, because it was never presented nor passed at last year’s meeting. And the last HOA meeting I attended was mostly a bitch session by three unhappy men about those not in attendance.
So it would just be easiest to go about our lives and not worry about the HOA, but Lynn and I have decided there’s no way around it: we need a shed. We don’t want a shed, and it’s been hard to decide where to put it, but we figure we’re going to need a 10 x 12 storage place out among our trees.
If we could move leftover Trex decking (enough for an entire additional deck — or the floor of a storage shed) somewhere, we could probably get Lynn’s car in our new garage. To get mine in, however, we have to find a place for Lynn’s market tent (used about once a year, usually by someone other than us) and sidewalls, one billion pots and half the Earth’s surface in potting soil, the gardening wagon I bought for Lynn . . . It would also be nice to have covered storage for Lynn’s outdoor table, her hammock, her bench, her firepit . . . hmmm. I’m sensing a theme here.
[I do still have a bunch of boxes out there, but in theory they will Some Day be moved inside. The main difference between my stuff and Lynn’s is that mine is all books and paper, and hers are big-ticket items like commercial appliances and outdoor furniture.]
At any rate, no matter how much math we try to do, the items that fit in a slightly smaller house with a garage less than half the size of this one and a Weatherport (and most of the contents from that have already gone to the landfill) absolutely are not going to fit here without a storage shed.
I knew that Lynn and I would need HOA permission to get a storage shed, but I figured it would be reasonably perfunctory. I did not expect the HOA’s attorney, who is also a resident, to tell me the covenants do not allow pre-fab units, and that he assumes that would include an already-built shed. I sent back a reply saying I assumed it would be all right if I had our contractor (who has completely vanished, so I hope the attorney doesn’t call my bluff) build a shed that looks remarkably like the ones already built and sitting for sale at the north end of town. I haven’t heard anything back.
So last night I re-read the covenants. You would think I would have them committed to memory by now, given how many times I’ve looked through them since first contemplating this lot. There is no discussion whatsoever of sheds, just attached and detached buildings, all of them presumed to be garages for at least one motor vehicle.
This is what it says about pre-fab, presumed by the originators to refer to modular housing: “As a rule, no modular units will be permitted, except in the case of extraordinary design and quality of construction that is permitted by the board after careful review.”
I don’t see any shed under my watch being “of extraordinary design,” but anything that starts “As a rule” suggests room for exceptions. And I am finding exceptions to covenants all over the 10 houses now in place.
One lot, now owned by someone other than the person who put everything in place, comes with four buildings rather than the specified two: the house, a garage, a shed and a greenhouse. And a fence well over three feet in height. I’m going to guess that half the houses feature metal skirting, despite a clear edict against any metal on the exterior walls.
And then I got to the newest covenant, which specifies that any detached building must be no more than 50 percent of the square footage of the primary residence, and it can’t have a second story. Currently under construction, by a board member and one of the neighbors who has been most helpful to us, is a house-sized two-bay garage with one RV-sized door — and a second story for what I assume is a home office, also skirting the covenant against home-based businesses.
(Home-based businesses sound allowable as long as you don’t have so much as a single client come and go, but I have no idea, given the huge volume of traffic for so few houses, how anyone would ever know.)
So it is starting to feel like the Palisades all over: covenants when it’s convenient for someone who wants to complain about something, and there to ignore in most other instances.
I’m not sure how many inconsistencies I want to bring up, and I certainly don’t want to get friendly, helpful neighbors in trouble. (Theoretically, I shouldn’t: the HOA board presumably approved their plans, but after two decades of getting blamed for customers’ T-shirt missteps, I know how it works in practice.) But I don’t want to be the one instance where the board decides to enforce its covenants to the letter, particularly if I have to pay Dusty double or triple (and wait two years) to get a shed that looks pretty much like what I can buy already built.
A different, better sort of woodshedding: