By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
In today’s post, IAC considers the question: in the relentless quest for protecting property values, haven’t some cities gone too far?
Beware: Some cities turning into HOAs on steroids
Several city and county governments in Georgia are up in arms about proposed restrictions on their power to dictate design elements of single-family and duplex homes.
Five House representatives are sponsoring a bill that would prohibit local governments from enacting and enforcing ordinances that limit a builder’s or property owner’s choice of building materials, color, and design.
Why is this bill necessary? Perhaps it’s due to takeover of community development by the HOA industry. Real estate stakeholders have been very fond of attaching ever more onerous covenants and restrictions to every new home built for the past 4 or 5 decades.
In a state like Georgia, where city and county leaders view HOAs as tax revenue cash cows and a private extension of their power, ordinances governing appearance have become the new normal.
Even if you’re lucky enough to buy or own a home that is not HOA-governed, you’re likely to run afoul of city or county HOA-like restrictions.
HB 302 is a breath of fresh air in an environment where there’s almost no escape from HOA-ville.
Predictably, the bill has its critics.
In a bit of irony, Brookhaven City Manager Christian Sigman calls House Bill 302 “overreach” of state government. The attitude: how dare the state government limit municipal power and control over its citizens who own private property.
The real overreach occurs when municipal governments adopt and enforce rules, imposing their vision of ‘good taste’ or ‘attractiveness’ onto property owners, all under the guise of protecting property values.
You see, opponents of HB 302 are not worried about cities losing their authority to enforce health and safety standards, or to prevent squatters from invading abandoned homes. The bill preserves that power of local government.
Instead, critic are worried — even irrationally fearful — that someone might paint their house a bold color or choose unconventional siding or roof shingles.
The Council of Neighborhoods insists it’s necessary for neighborhoods to have a ‘general look and feel and character’
But why should Georgia residents give a few dozen neighbors the right to tell every homeowner in every city what their home should look like?
Cities worry state bill would turn neighborhoods into the ‘Wild West’
Local Updated Feb 25, 2019
By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Imagine this: Under a proposed law, your neighbor can finally finish their home redesign, complete with bright orange paint and a two-car garage coming right up to the street. It’s an obvious eyesore, but one local governments are powerless to stop.
That’s the future many local officials fear if a state bill is passed that would prevent cities and counties from controlling the look and design of homes. Cities and counties around metro Atlanta are now uniting to fight House Bill 302. It would take away their ability to control things like the color and building material, number of rooms and other general design elements on single- and double-family houses.
Does this pink house make you long for an HOA?
So, what’s the worst thing that could happen if your neighbor makes his house unattractive, in your eyes?
Well, here’s a recent report from Texas, in the suburbs of Austin. A homeowner, Emilio Rodriguez, chose to paint his house a bright hue of pink. The entire house, including the roof. And, reportedly, Rodriguez has plans to paint his fence and driveway pink, too.
The homeowner says, since his house isn’t part of an HOA, nobody can stop him.
Of course, the HOA industry will latch onto this story as the perfect reason why every neighborhood needs an HOA, because local governments cannot enforce standards based solely on appearance.
(Tell that to Georgia municipal leaders.)
Ok, I’ll have to admit that ‘Pepto Bismol’ pink is not my favorite color. But it’s not my house. And the homeowner’s choice of color isn’t doing any real harm — other than creating a bit of an eyesore.
CBS Austin reporter, Adela Uchida, says that homeowners can take Rodriguez to court, claiming the color of his house reduces their property values.
Maybe so. If that’s the case, and the paint color really bothers them, then neighboring homeowners don’t really need an HOA, do they?
However, I’d expect a legal complaint over a pink house to be thrown out of court.
It’s not as though homeowners don’t have other options. Like screening out the view of their neighbor’s house with a fence, a hedge, or some strategically placed trees. If the neighborhood had an HOA, homeowners might not get permission for any of these changes.
The truth is, homeowners that make eccentric design choices are exceedingly rare.
Far, far more common are power-hungry HOA boards that selectively enforce arbitrary rules — even to the point of causing unnecessary expense and harm to their neighbors.
Like denying approval for a wheelchair ramp or an RV equipped for a disabled child. Or the right to park a car on the public street in front of your home. Or forcing all homeowners to repaint their homes, whether needed or not.
Giving HOAs or local governments too much power and control over private property defnitely has its disadvantages.
‘I don’t know why people don’t like it,’ says Texas man who painted entire house pink
Yahoo Lifestyle Hope Schreiber
Yahoo LifestyleMarch 1, 2019
Spring is in the air in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin, Texas, but it isn’t because of any blooming flowers or singing birds. Rather, the neighborhood is being brightened — much to some neighbors’ dismay — thanks to a house that has been painted completely in pink, including the roof.
Emilio Rodriguez, who bought the house in November, explained to KEYE that pink is his favorite color. Rodriguez says he purposely purchased in an area without a homeowner’s association (HOA) so he could paint his house a Pepto-Bismol pink hue.
See video of the home and its owner here
Pflugerville man not sure why people don’t like his home’s paint job
by ADELA UCHIDA, CBS Austin StaffThursday, February 28th 2019
Texas HOA residents subject to double fines
Here’s another example of overreach by local governments, as well as HOAs.
The city of Fate recently decided to solve a problem of overgrown trees, shrubs, and bushes by fining homeowners into oblivion. The new ordinance gives the City the right to fine property owners $500 to $2,000 per day if they fail to trim back vegetation within 10 days.
This is in addition to any fines imposed by an HOA, if applicable.
Apparently, Fate City Council hasn’t heard that the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits excessive fines, according to a recent SCOTUS ruling.
This ordinance is an example of an otherwise reasonable rule with good intentions. But the penalty doesn’t fit the nature of the violation.
The ordinance also allows the city to hire a third-party contractor to trim back vegetation, if the property owner doesn’t act within 10 days.
Shouldn’t billing the owner for the city’s contractor be enough of a penalty? Is it also necessary to fine a home or business owner hundreds or thousands of dollars? Sounds like a money grab to me.
New regulations in Fate could lead to fines from HOA as well as city, officials say
Hojun Choi Feb 21, 2019
A new ordinance in Fate regarding fines related to trees, shrubs and bushes along the city’s streets, alleys and sidewalks leaves open the possibility for some residents to face two different penalties for a single violation.
The Fate City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that adds penalties for residents whose trees and plant life grow to an extent that they hang too low over streets and sidewalks.
According to city documents, “vegetation” that hangs over a street or alley must allow 14 feet of clearance underneath. For sidewalks, that limit is 8 feet.
Penalties for violations would be $500 per day, while infractions that constitute a health and safety, or fire violation could carry a penalty of $2,000 per day.
Of course, Fate isn’t the first city to go overboard with excessive powers to fine. Here on IAC, you’ll also find other examples, such as the cities of Pagedale, Missouri, Charlestown, Indiana, and Mt. Dora, Florida.
The point is, if you’re the kind of person who likes to control the appearance of your neighbor’s home, be careful what you wish for.
Today’s current obsession with “protecting property values” there’s leaves plenty of room for overreach and abuse of power. The last thing America needs is for all local governments to join forces with virtually unregulated HOAs.