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JENKINS: Of two minds on homeowners' associations

I have mixed emotions about neighborhood homeowners' associations, or HOAs. I don't really want anybody telling me what I can and can't do with my own property. On the other hand, I definitely want someone telling my neighbors what they can and can't do.

In the past, I've been critical of my own HOA. For two years I battled the president and his henchmen -- I mean, the board — over a portable basketball goal, which they said was prohibited by the covenants. I maintained it wasn't. The stalemate was broken when the board resigned and the president was exiled to the isle of Elba, off the coast of Italy.

Excuse me, wrong megalomaniac. Actually I think he still lives in the neighborhood, keeping a low profile. As a postscript to that story, many of my neighbors now have portable basketball goals, just because they can.

Anyway, after that standoff was resolved, the new association leadership and I entered into a period of uneasy detente. They left me completely alone and seemed to be doing good things for the neighborhood, such as building walking trails and keeping homeowners safe from marauding bands of lawn gnomes. Still, I remained skeptical of the whole HOA concept.

Then my neighbor painted his house lemon-meringue yellow.

To put this in context, you must understand that our subdivision has recently undergone something of a color revolution. All in all, this is a good thing. When the homes were first built, six or seven years ago, buyers could choose any exterior color they wished, as long as it was beige. The result is that the houses are all pretty much the same color, kind of like the political leadership in our exurban counties.

However, the HOA has recently loosened up and added new colors to the "approved" list, such as off-white and eggshell. Just kidding. Actually, they've added attractive shades of green, brown, and yellow. But one of those shades is NOT lemon-meringue.

Fortunately, it turned out to be human error: the painters simply got the wrong shade of yellow. The homeowner was just as mortified as the rest of us. I think even he called the HOA president to complain.

Which made 111 calls the poor president received that day -- and we only have 110 homes in our subdivision. The other call was from our letter carrier.

Anyway, the story has a happy ending. The painters rectified their mistake, repainting the house in a shade that is much easier on the eyes, if not as appetizing. And I gained a new appreciation for homeowners' associations and the ways they protect home values and community interests.

And now that I've said all these nice things about them, I wonder if the HOA will mind when my cousin Bill and his wife Linda move their five kids into the trailer I'm setting up in my back yard.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.