Saturday, May 07, 2005

Entire State of Maine may be propelled one hour into the future by legislative fiat
(AP) Mainers would join their neighbors in the Canadian Maritime Province in the Atlantic Time Zone if a bill that advanced in a legislative committee becomes a law. The State and Local Government Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill putting Maine in a zone where it's an hour later.

Friday, May 06, 2005

"We have not heard anyone suggesting that CID law is fine the way it is."
So says the California Law Revision Commission. A report worth reading.
Editor's Notes: Decades of doom ahead in Poconos?
We used to live near the Poconos and vacationed there. Here's a link sent by Nancy Levy that predicts a grim future, courtesy of overdevelopment. Thousands of new homes built as "resorts sell out to developers," students added to the school districts, tax hikes, inadequate infrastructure, rising crime...everything but a plague of locusts. I hope he's wrong, but it's worth reading as a parable for communities facing a high rate of new residential construction.

This is a far-reaching column that could be summed up by writing: "The Poconos appears doomed." Not doomed for eternity, perhaps, but certainly for decades...
Local Bomb Shell Landmark Stolen
The things you can do when you don't have an HOA...

Carbondale, IL - For the last forty years, the Gibson family proudly displayed an old World War II bomb shell in their Carbondale yard. The six foot tall, 350 pound shell was certainly hard to miss, as drivers passed by it on Giant City road. Some even describe it as a local landmark. But, over the weekend, the bomb turned up missing. The Gibson's think someone stole it, but they're not sure how thieves could yank the heavy shell out from the ground, and not get spotted, along their busy street.

Ribbons divide SR homeowners
Fred Pilot sent this along from California--tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree, and your condo association comes after you...

When Dave Pinsky's son was shipped to Iraq with the Air Force Reserves the day after Christmas, the concerned father put up yellow ribbons in front of his Santa Rosa condominium.The ribbons, which the Vietnam veteran and sympathetic neighbors placed on the outside of their Fountaingrove condos and tied around trees, represented their hope that Senior Master Sgt. Brian Pinsky would return safely to the United States.But that gesture landed Pinsky and his neighbors, Bob and Barbara Abbott, in hot water with the board of directors of the Stonefield Condominium Homeowners Association...One Stonefield resident, who did not want to be identified, said the ribbons made the area look like a used car lot.

Tri-City Herald: Opinions
Nancy Levy sent the link to this story out of Washington State. Now can the other 49 please get in line?

Thanks to a bill sponsored by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire, some homeowners have had their rights restored. Imagine that. It turns out that some homeowner associations have ruled their residents cannot erect political signs in their yards. Even during the election season. Benton said the governor was pretty happy about the new law. After he thanked Gregoire for signing his bill, Benton recalled, "She said that she was excited about it because her own mother was prohibited by her homeowners association from displaying a "Gregoire for Governor" yard sign.

Midlothian Wood in Midlothian Virginia by Tascon Group
Nancy Levy seems to have solved the mystery of what a "ranch style condominium" looks like. This link goes to a drawing of something that, Nancy notes, looks like what most of us would call a townhome or row house. I still say the term is an oxymoron. Ranch style housing is intentionally sprawling and was designed for places where residential density was very low and therefore land was cheap. Condos were created expressly for high-density living in places where land is expensive--such as beach and resort areas and central cities. Maybe the ranch-style condos in these ads are jsut a condo association form of ownership in a row house setting. Easy enough, and done all the time. So--why not just call them townhomes like everybody else?
Cox forced to release documents to regulators:Ariz. probe looks into service deals

Fred Pilot sent this AZ Republic piece. Background: starting back in the 1980s, developers would cut deals with cable TV companies. In exchange for a covenant stating "no exterior antennas," the cable TV provider would run cable to the units for free. That meant that all owners would have to choose between paying for cable TV service and adjusting a set of rabbit ears (some people wrapped them in aluminum foil for better reception). Now, in the 21st century, we have these allegations of "preferred provider agreements":
Arizona regulators Wednesday took the unusual step of asking a judge to force Cox to hand over documents relating to a statewide review of exclusive deals reached between the communications company and private developers...Michael Patten, a lawyer representing Cox, said the company's slow response was due to miscommunication, timing and a pending federal antitrust investigation of a deal that Cox reached to become the main provider of communications for the Vistancia master-planned community in Peoria...The state agency has two ongoing cases involving the issue of preferred providers, exclusive deals reached between developers and telecommunications companies in new-home communities.
Majority of Californians make less than half the income needed to buy a home - Yahoo! News

California households are making less than half the income necessary to buy a median-priced home in the first quarter of 2005.Statewide households, with a median household income of $53,540, are $60,380 short of the $113,920 qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $488,600 in California, according to the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) Homebuyer Income Gap Index (HIGI) report for the first quarter of 2005...For Southern California, the median-priced home was $477,660, which required a qualifying income of $111,370 to make the monthly PITI payment of $2,780. However, the median household income for Southern California was $52,050, leaving an income shortfall of $59,320.
Wow. As Fred Pilot points out, this could monkey wrench the HOA boom in California. With condos now averaging over 350K in the San Fernando Valley and San Diego, even those glorified apartments are out of reach for people making the median income.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Update on churlish town - Removing mom's signs brings scorn to Cape CoralPeople from across the United States and as far away as Nova Scotia spent Wednesday telling Cape Coral officials they're un-American, communists and Nazis — among other things.

The name calling came in an onslaught of e-mail that blasted a city worker for removing signs and yellow ribbons a mother had posted to greet her U.S. Army daughter as she returned home from Iraq.

After receiving more than 100 e-mails, city officials went into damage control.

Developer plans world's tallest condo -- 110 stories -- in Miami
With "1000 condo units and 500 apartments and hotel rooms," I think the BOD meetings should be entertaining, and perhaps good for a situation comedy.
Why not post entire articles?
I have been asked to post the full text of an article I linked to. The reason I don't do that is that it's a violation of copyright laws. It's OK to include a bit of it, but not the whole thing. Sorry.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Romeo, Michigan: site of the world's first ranch-style condominiums...??
Fred Pilot found this, but don't ask me how (update: The trail leads back to the HOAS Yahoo newsgroup, where Nancy Levy posted it originally). The Michigan Department of Oxymorons will have to OK this proposal, I think. I guess the idea must be to string the condos together in a nice, rambling, single-story, line?

During the Planning Commission public hearing on the request in November, Anthony Lombardo of Michibay West told the commission that ranch-style condominiums were planned for the property. - Money - Houston Woman Loses $270,000 House Over $420 Bill: State Senator Wants To Outlaw Non-Judicial Foreclosures

How can the industry continue to claim that these things don't happen? This article even contains a photo of the house, and it is a beauty. So, here's the latest publicized victim of foreclosure abuse. And a legislator is ready to do something. The only rational public policy response to such outrages is a complete ban on nonjudicial foreclosure by HOAs. Making the HOA go before a judge would restore some sanity to this process. I can't believe that any rational judge would have allowed this sale to go forward.
HOUSTON -- A Houston woman lost a $270,000 home she owned free and clear because of a $420 debt to a homeowner's association, Local 2 reported Wednesday.Pamela Bernhardt owned a two-story, four-bedroom rental home with a swimming pool in the 14200 block of Swallowfield in southwest Houston. She just spent $48,000 renovating it. "It has hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless appliances and all new tile in the bathroom," Bernhardt said. The Briarhills Homeowner's Association sold it after Bernhardt did not pay a $420 assessment fee.
Barred From the Website Forum: But Can the Association Do That?
Good LA Times article on HOAs and the First Amendment where the internet is concerned--comment from me at the end of the article, also quote from Frank Askin. Can your HOA ban you from their message board? Read and see...
The News-Press: Cape Coral - Mom upset after Cape official pulls 'Welcome Back Soldier' sign
I have this uneasy sensation that suburban municipalities are gradually behaving more and more like HOAs. It's a bit like that old SF movie, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The city goes to sleep, and somebody puts a pod down next to it. In the morning the city is gone, and a pod-city that looks just like the city but acts like an HOA has taken its place.

A Cape Coral mother was upset Tuesday when a city worker removed a small, homemade sign and yellow ribbons, welcoming her daughter home from Iraq, for violating a local ordinance.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New Jersey: Panel boosts bill on homeowner groups
Seems that CAI is happy and owner groups are not--at least, that's the way the story presents it.
Legislation defining the rights and responsibilities of the 1.2 million New Jerseyans who live in communities governed by homeowners associations and condo or co-op boards was approved yesterday by an Assembly committee. The bill, based on a national model law and the recommendations of a 1998 Assembly task force, "has been in the making for a very long time," according to its sponsor, Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Essex). He said it attempts to "find a fair balance" between the rights of individual residents and those of the larger community. The bill declares that residents of association-governed communities have certain rights that include "a fair and effective method of resolving disputes," running for election, watching their association operate in the open and access to its records. Their obligations include maintaining their properties according to community standards, paying all fees and assessments on time and obeying rules adopted by their association. For the first time in New Jersey, it would unify scattered provisions of law dealing with homeowners associations, condo boards and governing bodies of co-op apartments. Recognizing that such community associations perform "quasi-governmental functions," such as fining residents for violating rules, it also subjects them to greater oversight by the state Department of Community Affairs.

ThisisLondon: Microphones to catch noisy neighbours

Coming soon, to an HOA near you?

Noisy neighbours have become a scourge of modern life, resulting in stress, sleepless nights and even violence. Now Westminster Council hopes a new wireless microphone could help tackle the problem. It plans to attach the device to lamp posts outside houses, allowing inspectors to monitor sound levels.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Developers Eye Land Along Everglades - Yahoo! News

I expect that the residential developments will have covenants prohibiting alligators weighing more than 30 pounds. But enforcement could be a challenge.
This landscape, the only subtropical farm region in the continental United States, is protected by a boundary line that was drawn two decades ago to keep development from pushing westward.Now, to the dismay of farmers...developers are snapping up Miami-Dade County's dwindling open land and hoping to persuade politicians to push the boundary line closer toward the Everglades.

Chicago Tribune | Supermarkets sit empty as deeds block new grocers

Here's a use of restrictive covenants that you don't encounter every day:

When the Dominick's store in West Lawn closed last spring, ending more than two decades in the Southwest Side neighborhood, residents expected another grocer to quickly fill the void. A year later, however, the 54,000-square-foot building remains vacant, and neighborhood residents who once walked to the store now take buses or beg rides to full-line grocery stores miles away. Pete's Market, a local grocery chain, wanted to take over the space. But Dominick's has blocked Pete's and every other grocer from using the space inside an aging shopping plaza by placing a restriction in the deed that bars grocery stores. Restrictive covenants have been a common tactic in the grocery industry, used to thwart competition and control markets. Records show that two North Side properties that used to house Dominick's groceries carry the same restrictions. But across the nation, community groups and elected officials are beginning to cry foul, saying restrictive covenants not only hurt business competition but punish whole neighborhoods.

Sunday, May 01, 2005 HOA reform bill passes House: Proxies out, majority can remove board member

From Arizona, lots of detail in this story:
A homeowners association reform bill to get rid of proxies and give homeowners statewide a uniformed way to oust board members was due for a Senate floor vote this week before heading to the governor's desk. House Bill 2154, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Mesa), is one of the few surviving measures of the 50 HOA reform bills introduced this legislative session.
Subdivisions Impose Social Divide:
Here's a Washington Post article that finds room for a comment from me:

"It is the sort of strange effect that Evan McKenzie, author of the book 'Privatopia,' thinks county and other governments are only beginning to grapple with. The very concept of local citizenship is changing, he argues, as people are identifying less with such public entities as counties and more with their private developments and homeowner associations, which largely have assumed the role of governments. 'I think we're at a brave-new-world moment here,' McKenzie said. 'I think we're going through a major revolution in urban governance, and we won't fully understand the consequences of this for 50 years.'" - Bills aim to ease problems facing neighborhoods
A bill sponsored by Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, regulating the proliferation of neighborhood bars, passed the Senate on Friday...The legislation, prompted by publicized cases in which homeowners were threatened with loss of their houses because they didn't pay association fees, would curb associations' use of foreclosure sales to collect fees.Bailey's bill, which passed out of committee Thursday, would require homeowners associations to give clear notice to homeowners that delinquent fees could result in foreclosures, prevent the associations from foreclosing on a home without a proper hearing, require that a judge approve foreclosures and allow homeowners up to two years to redeem homes after foreclosure. Lindsay introduced a similar bill on Friday."A home is the largest and most expensive possession most citizens will ever own in their lives," he said. "For a nongovernmental entity to foreclose and sell a home without the benefit of an impartial court considering both sides of the issue is contrary to everything most Texans and Americans hold as reasonable and fair."

Los Angeles Times: OK for Oxnard High-Rises a Tall Order
Fred Pilot claims this is a real news story and not the first page of a script treatment for a disaster movie. A 48 story condo building in Southern California? Can you spell S-A-N-A-N-D-R-E-A-S-F-A-U-L-T, boys and girls?

If San Diego high-rise developer Doug Austin has his way, three condominium towers up to 500 feet tall will form a new urban skyline above the agricultural Oxnard Plain in the next few years. Austin's plan calls for more than 1,000 condominiums in three slender towers — two of 31 stories and one of 48 — nearly twice as high as Ventura County's tallest building, which is itself an aberration in low-rise suburbia. "Frank Lloyd Wright had a concept of a mile-high city as a way to save the plains and open space," said Austin, who is also an architect. "And if you're looking out into Oxnard's future, and you are truly interested in saving the farmland, this is an alternative. The growth has to spread somewhere." bills in trouble?

You have to scroll down to find this, and I don't know if it is on the money or not:
HOA mediation bills run out of gas

At times, homeowners associations and residents are at odds with one another. Some of these disputes escalate into crisis mode, erupting into mini-battles behind what should be the gates of tranquility.
Two bills are now circulating in the Legislature to create the first ever state ombudsperson office that would provide mediation for problems, training for board members and information for HOA residents.Great idea. Unfortunately, the bills have already hit a snag. Californians living in HOAs are going to have to wait at least another year - or maybe two - for any possible state help with problems. At issue is the proposed $5 fee on homeowners to support the office and the lack of enforcement powers.OK, so address the issues and move forward with a modified plan - or shore up what you have. Don't let HOAs and residents flounder in a sea of disputes. They need help.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH / The dirt around new homes provides an inviting blank canvas
Here's a story Fred Pilot found on restrictions in suburbia. | Realities Behind The Gates: Enclosed Communities A Potent Symbol, But May Be Losing Favor

Good article by Carly Berwick of the Hartford Courant--has quotes from me and Setha Low, author of "Behind the Gates."