Up until three and a half years ago, we lived in a neighborhood. There was no overall theme–the homes were whatever style the owner chose, and the lots were anywhere from half an acre to four acres. We had two acres with a brick house built in the sixties that I absolutely adored. Sugar called it Barbie’s Dream House, and it was. It was Southern traditional–big front porch, screened porch in back, lots of big oak trees in the yard.
But… we travel a lot, and two acres of yard plus a large house with fifty-year-old parts that needed continuous maintenance made us think life would be less complicated if we had less to take care of. Small house, big scrapbook, we said to ourselves. Simplify.
I REALLY wanted to live in downtown Greenville, where we could walk to dinner, or to Falls Park, and could ride our bikes through the park trails without having to load them up on the bike rack. Sugar was not so keen on this idea, as ninety-five percent of the real estate in downtown Greenville is condos. “But our back yard would be Falls Park,” I said. Sugar gave in on the condition that we would rent for a year, and if we liked it, we’d buy.
We sold Barbie’s Dream House, and moved into a 1,200 square-foot condo half a block from Falls Park. Despite all the amenities of downtown living that we both loved, within six months we were both claustrophobic. No patio, no deck–no place for Sugar’s grill.
We started looking at new houses, ones that didn’t need anything done to them. The beautiful homes in neighborhoods that border downtown Greenville were older than the one we’d sold, so we looked further out. A subdivision, we thought, is the middle ground. Half acre yard, new house.
Covenants and restrictions? Oh, those are just to protect your property value–to make sure folks don’t put up outhouses and such in the backyard. This is the fiction we were sold. Don’t ever let anyone tell you this.
I believe there are three kinds of people on any given Architectural Review Committee:
Type One, the well-meaning sorts, who volunteer because they want to do the right thing, give back, etc. These are the minority, and they will be worn down to a nub by the rest of them, and likely take to strong drink.
Type Two are dragged in kicking and screaming, or perhaps convinced when they’ve had a few martinis, by their friends who are Type Ones. Type Twos will hide when trouble starts, and it will.
Type Three are the folks who want to be in charge. They have a driving need to decide what is best for all, and then shove it down their neighbors’ throats. They will rule the ARC in any homeowners association because they are the most invested. They crave POWER. Likely, they were bullied in high school.
Two and a half years later, we love the house, but have ascertained that we are not subdivision people. We’re rebels. If, on Saturday afternoon, we decide we want to put a trellis in front of the air conditioner compressor, we don’t want to have to draw a picture, fill out forms, and wait FORTY-FIVE DAYS for the Architectural Review Committee to approved it (or not).
And don’t get me started on the trees. The ARC has tried to dictate which trees we can plant and in what configuration. Thankfully, the attorney who drew up the covenants and restrictions assures me this is unenforceable, not covered in the covenants and restrictions, and ridiculous.
We’re currently working on a scheme with our old neighbors–the ones who live next to Barbie’s Dream House–to convince the folks we sold it to that the place is haunted so they’ll leave. In the meantime, I’m thinking of taking up sculpture and creating a heinous piece of orange and pink yard art with tassels and old shoes stuck on.