It’s time to end costly, senseless disputes over swing sets and other trivial matters
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Today’s featured report of over-regulation of homeowners is several months old. And you might think it involves another HOA that hates children. But this protracted dispute over a swing set has taken place in the Village of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A real government.
Grandparent’s $1,500 swing set creates a rift in wealthy D.C. suburb
By Justin Wm. Moyer May 6, 2016
It was just a swing set. A $1,500 custom-designed swing set that doubles as a wisteria arbor in a posh Washington-area neighborhood, but just a swing set.
Still, the monkey bars and three swings Bill Maloni erected for his six grandchildren in the back yard of his Chevy Chase Village home have drawn ire. Months after the swing set went up last spring, Maloni was cited for a code violation, which triggered three hearings, a vote by the village’s Board of Managers and, now, possible litigation.
“I continue to hope that logic will prevail,” Maloni said. “But I doubt it.”
This wealthy enclave — a tree-lined, 0.4-square-mile area just across the District line in Montgomery County — is governed by an elected seven-member board. It is not the first time the village and surrounding neighborhoods have squabbled with residents over complaints that some might deem trivial — and it is hardly alone in such disputes.
Maloni’s battle with the Village of Chevy Chase proves that covenants and restrictions attached to the deed or title of one’s home are the root of conflict and potential abuse, even in the absence of a homeowners association (HOA). In this case, the Village board of managers is vested with the power to enforce the rules of the covenant, as well as Village ordinances.
That is why I have said, on numerous occasions, that all CC&Rs must be reviewed prior to being written in stone and imposed upon private property. Sometimes, CC&Rs are grossly unreasonable or downright unconstitutional.
In Chevy Chase, as in many other American towns, deed restrictions limiting ownership or occupancy based on race, ethnicity, or religious background have long been ruled unconstitutional, and therefore unenforceable.
Perhaps it is time for homeowners across the U.S. to seriously challenge many other onerous deed restrictions.
Think about it. What public benefit is served by overly restrictive rules based solely on aesthetics (the way your neighbor’s property appears from the curb)?
Why is it considered a constitutional right for one group of property owners and/or governing body to impose its subjective personal tastes and lifestyle preferences upon another group of property owners, as a condition of choosing to own a home in a particular location?
And, while we’re at it, we can pose the same question with regard to local government zoning regulations and ordinances. How many of these regulatory rules serve a bonafide purpose to preserve community health and safety, or to prevent valid nuisances?
If no valid purpose is served, why not deem such useless restrictions as unconstitutional and/or invalid?
Let’s face it, no one has ever been irreparably harmed by viewing an arbor or watching children play on a swing set in the neighbor’s yard.
On the contrary, legal battles over petty issues have cost homeowners and taxpayers thousands of dollars, with little to no benefit to anyone in the end.
The cost of social discord among neighbors is far more difficult to measure, but should no longer be ignored.
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