Thursday, March 16, 2006
In our increasingly crowded communities, homeowners associations give some citizens a sense of security about how their neighbors will act. They ensure that the neighbors won't forget to mow the grass, install a kennel for 20 dogs in the backyard, or post signs complaining that the government is controlling their brains through secret radio transmissions. These kinds of concerns may seem "intolerant." In the New York Times recently, however, libertarian-oriented columnist John Tierney discussed one new reason why many citizens like the ability to control their neighbors: it slows the trend of "mansionization," by which one's neighbors tear down their small house and, spurred by zooming property values, build a colossal and ostentatious new one that looms over yours. In his unrestricted Maryland suburb, Tierney wrote, arguments over mansionization led the mayor to send a letter asking residents to stop throwing eggs at each other's houses. Deed restrictions ensure that one's neighbor won't decide to build a gaudy palace next door and ensure that one's neighbor won't chop down trees for a new 4-SUV garage. Are homeowners associations thus a form of environmentalism?