But it's not all glamour and fun, let me tell you. As the president it somehow fell on James to do things like empty trash barrels at the park. I accompanied him on one of these jaunts and can vouch for how nasty it is to gaze into a trash can and see maggots squirming at the bottom.
But possibly the worst part of his job is being The Enforcer. He’s the one who has to tell homeowners when they have transgressed the deed restrictions, whether it’s building a fence out of unapproved materials or leaving an RV in the driveway. Sometimes homeowners can get downright mean about what they consider to be infringements on their rights. They don’t seem to grasp that the rules are there to keep the neighborhood looking decent. If you want to live in a trailer park, go live in a trailer park.
Recently there was an issue with a homeowner who set up a bar in his driveway. The bar is a rustic wooden piece , quite charming really, and something I wouldn’t mind having on my back patio. But in the driveway? When confronted, he insisted the bar is actually a storage compartment for his trash barrels. Oh, please. He regularly holds parties in the driveway, complete with those lacy paper streamers popular at Mexican festivities. The Board had problems dealing with this particular homeowner, because (1) he’s a lawyer and can argue his way out of anything, and (2) he’s a board member. Finally the Architectural Control Committee okayed the “trash can screen” and the matter was dropped.
The annual homeowners’ meeting is coming up soon. It is held in the auditorium at the local telephone company. The board sits up front and presents boring statistics about the budget and spending and so on. After that the meeting will liven up when, people being people, they start to moan and complain and demand. Civilized exchanges of opinion can quickly degenerate into heated confrontations.
At the last HOA meeting, it was considered prudent to have a visible police presence in case certain homeowners (to remain unnamed) got too fractious. As it turned out, not only did a couple of Bulverde’s finest show up, but also the entire local fire department. The fire fighters were there to show off their brand new, shiny fire truck and to field questions about fire protection in the neighborhood.
Some homeowners were worried about the lack of fire hydrants. They demanded that hydrants be installed. James is, or, more accurately, was, a building contractor, and knew that such a project would involve tearing up all the streets, installing bigger water pipes, and would cost somewhere around 10 million dollars. That would mean that each of the approximately 200 households in the neighborhood would have to pay $50,000 apiece for such a project. That shut everybody up in a hurry. But a few people insisted on getting an official estimate from the water company. (After several months of study, it came in: the project would involve tearing up all the streets, installing larger water pipes, and would cost about $10 million.)
The spokesman for the fire department proposed a solution for the lack of fire hydrants. He suggested that homeowners with swimming pools offer the use of their pool water in case of a fire emergency. Contraptions exist—I pictured a huge shop vac--that can suck the water right out of a swimming pool. I envisioned a firefighter in full regalia waiting patiently for someone to come to the door and say, “Sure, help yourself to my pool!” as a fire blazes merrily down the street.
There was some crabbing about property rights, trespassing, and what about backyard pets escaping? The fire department said they could get signed permissions from pool owners ahead of time. They were equally concerned about dogs in the back yard. Would they be attacked as they hook up the suction hose? The issue was fraught with problems, and by the time the meeting was over, no one was very reassured about it.
Then the ban on burning brush in your backyard came up. During dry spells, which is usually all summer long, burning brush is strictly forbidden. A homeowner mentioned that he had recently seen a back yard fire from blocks away. The fire was so big that flames could be seen above the roof of the two-story house. It turned out to be the home of the developer of the subdivision. This is the same guy who didn’t install water pipes big enough to accommodate the number of homes in neighborhood. Or install fire hydrants. Or, apparently, observe the county’s ban on burning anything in your yard outside a barbecue grill.
There were also a few complaints about feral cats, people letting their dogs run loose, etc. It was all pretty tame. I had been ready for fireworks and was frankly a little disappointed when they didn’t happen. Maybe this year.