Monday, May 04, 2009

Breaking Rocks in the Cold Rain

So, I am in a neighborhood association, and I am a reluctant member -- it is compulsory, one of those nine hundred papers we signed when we bought the house. Having never been in one of those before we moved here, I had no clue what they were about. 

Sign here. And here, and here, and here, and here --

Sure. No problem.

What they wind up being, the neighborhood association, are, in effect, yard nannies. Grass gets too high, you get a letter saying, you better cut it. Want to paint the place? Got to run a sample past the committee, 'cause it's "earth-tones," only around here, i.e., no white, nor pink (well "salmon" is okay) nor purple with azure spots. Want to put on a new roof? (Finally allowed that composite shingles are okay, if they are a certain kind that looks sorta like cedar shakes.) Put up a fence, install a deck, take down a dead tree, anything like that? Must be pre-approved, else they can put a lien on your house, and that's how it is, too bad, seig Heil ...

And if you get a crack in your sidewalk, or the tree roots -- from the trees you aren't allowed to cut down without association approval and a permit from the city -- shove the concrete up so there is more than a 3/8" disparity in height from one slab to the next? Better fix that, pronto, or the association rats you out to the city, and the city will give you thirty days to repair it or they will, and charge you top dollar for the job. Break up the old concrete, dig out the roots, set forms, pour, smooth, and if you are lucky, three or four years before you have to do it again.

A few years back,  a developer wanted to put up a mini-mall behind my across-the-street neighbors' houses, in a area that was zoned residential. Those of us at this end of the street fought it, and the zoning commission went our way and recommended to the city council to deny the developer the permit. But the City Council split on the vote, three/three, and the then-mayor got to cast the tie-breaker. So happened that the biggest contributor to his campaign was the same developer. 

Want to guess which way the mayor voted ... ?

Fortunately, all we got was a drugstore and not a McDonald's. But our friendly neighborhood neighborhood association? They supported the developer, and not us. Isn't that lovely? 

All of which is to say that every couple of years, the gum ball and fir trees the builder planted along the walks thirty-odd years ago cause the sidewalks to warp and buckle, and the association sends out letters -- better get that fixed. Oh, and since there are so many people who are gonna get it done, we can get a deal from a contractor to have it done cheaper, only eighteen hundred bucks for your section ...

Sometimes, you can rent a concrete grinder, buy a wheel, and for a couple hundred bucks, flatten the ridges if they aren't too bad and skate for a year or two. Or pay somebody to do it for you. Which is what I did time before last. Last time, I hired a contractor who replaced the two bad slabs, a thousand bucks. This time, there are three or four bad slabs, and, unfortunately, my driveway has gradually sunk at the road, so that every big rain, all the water running down the gutters on my side of the street takes a detour into my front yard.

Couple days ago, we had a thunderstorm, dropped half an inch or so of rain in about five minutes, blew over trees and broke a lot of big limbs, and before I could go sandbag the driveway, we had five inches of standing water in our courtyard and rising fast toward the front door. My submersible pump had a seizure and died, I was out there with a shovel, damming the driveway with mud and leaves, then bailing the courtyard with a bucket, lightning flashing from cloud to cloud overhead, and boy, was that fun ...

So, since I have to get the driveway done, and since I can get a better deal because the contractor will be buying a lot of cement and laying it up and down the street, I got a bid. 

Expensive, but no way around it. This afternoon in the drizzle, there were two guys out breaking up sections of my front sidewalk. One had a sledgehammer, the other a long pry bar, and after a couple of hours whacking and prying, created big chunks of dead concrete out front.

Apparently the Day of the Machine is a ways off here in Oregon. Want to bet against the idea that it is cheaper to hire two guys to do it by hand than to rent a pneumatic chisel?

After a time, they wrapped it in yellow tape and a couple of sawhorses and left.

The driveway will be next -- I'm supposed to get a warning so I can get my car out.

Owning your own home is a joy and privilege and I am happy to have one, and I don't get to bitch too much; still, it's mine, and I also don't get to call the landlord to come fix stuff for me ...


VC said...

The Mother-in-law lives in West Linn and when we visit I'm always amazed by folks pouring concrete or asphalt or welding in the rain. She says if we waited until it stopped nothing would ever get done...

Dan Gambiera said...

Homeowners Associations are the Devil.

Mike said...

Heh. Glad I live out in the woods, far away from any yard (or sidewalk) Nazis. If I were you, I'd think about turning it into a toll sidewalk. Put a couple of fierce corgis on guard, and charge 'em to walk on the concrete you've poured the bucks into.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

There was a big push for a neighborhood association around here several years ago, and the proposal was shot down before it could gain altitude. Turns out the major instigator was a Chinese couple that lived on the next block over, and they wanted to apply such rules as what color scheme your house could be, not only how tall, but what sort of shrubbery you could plant, holiday lighting, etc, ad nauseum.

Well, no one else in the neighborhood would support it, the guy across the street from me has a peach-colored house, down the street is fire engine red, some of the Hindu people on the other side of the street still have Christmas lights up on their roofs.

The Chinese couple still gripe and moan to anyone who'll listen about loss of equity and property value depreciation. We just smile, nod in agreement, and mow the lawn when we damn well feel like it.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, I understand the theory that keeping your next door neighbor from painting his house titty-pink might help keep property values from sliding, but the problem is that when you give people power, they abuse it. Smaller the person, the more likely that is to happen.

When I wanted to put up a wooden fence around the courtyard, I sent the architectural guy a copy of the plan. No problem.

Once the fence was up, he dropped round. Looked at the fence, which was bare wood, and said, "Hmm. You are going to have to paint that fence."

To which I replied, "I don't think so. Paint wasn't in my submitted plans, and there are five other houses on this street with unpainted wooden fences out front that have been there for years. They didn't have to, I don't have to."

That was the end of that discussion.

Different guy came around last spring and wondered what I was planning on doing about the scraggly grass growing under the trees next to the road.

Same thing I do every year, I said. Wait until it dies, dig it up, and then bark dust the ground.

I also gave him some operating notes and my opinion of the association.

Haven't seen him since.

steve-vh said...

We'll possibly run afoul of the supposed one in our neighborhood when we build a barn. We were here two years before we even found out there was one, at least that's what the township told us, we were in a platted zone. On one hand it was good because we have street lights out in the middle of the forest (MIKE?). But I've got two acres, they're not going to tell me how many square feet my barn can be because my lot is on a corner facing SW. My dad used to be a city manager, when that happens he said get a lawyer and protest that the association is defunct due to lack of activity and dues. heck, we had to go to the original realtor to ge the bylaws. We would have never bought.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes vandals girdle trees. Hard to catch them; all it takes is some punk running a knife around the tree once.

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Seems like I remember reading a short story about... some guy trying to paint his house a different color?..