Most communities in the Bristow-Gainesville-Haymarket area have HOAs (Home Owners Associations.) When you hear the initials HOA, your mind immediately travels to things covered by covenants. How tall can my grass get before I have to mow? What color can I paint my front door? What kind of deck or fence can I build on my property? Yes, the HOA does have a say in these things. It is important to note, however, that HOAs are about more than just covenants applications and appearances.
I live in the community of Braemar in Bristow, VA. I also have the pleasure of serving on the HOA Board of a Braemar Sub-Association: Tartan Hills Village. As a Board Member, I can tell you that safety issues are raised much more frequently that those of appearance or covenants.
In 2007, our Tartan Hills Village HOA, in conjunction with Steve Steven, Transportation Safety Director for Prince William County, remedied a signage deficiency in our community that prevented parking in cul-de-sacs. Prince William County design guidelines stated that absolutely no parking could occur in cul-de-sacs with islands for reasons of fire safety. The fire hydrant was at the end of each cul-de-sac and if a cul-de-sac had cars parked around it, a hook & ladder fire truck could not make it to a home. So in 2007, after two years of County and State review, the signage restricting parking was made more clear. More clear for those who may not speak English, and more clear for police officers who were the enforcement of unlawful parking. Braemar, the Master Association of our Sub Association and many others, corrected their signage deficiency for the same reason. Residents and their guest didn’t understand they were not permitted to park in the cul-de-sacs. Now, the problem is solved, but the residents are furious. They feel completely inconvenienced by having to walk ten or twenty yards to a street parking space. Did I mentions they all have driveways and two car garages? Yet, when blasting Steve Stevens and the HOA, some of these residents negated their own garages as they were used for storage. Not the HOA’s or the County’s problem. If you don’t have enough parking between your two car garage, your two car driveway and the street parking a short distance from your home isn’t cutting it, maybe you live in too small a house, have too much stuff, or live in the wrong neighborhood.
The complaints were also about how ugly the signs were. Seriously? This is your house being saved in a fire we’re talking about here? And you think the signs are ugly? You want the HOA to remove them? Is a stop sign pretty? Is a traffic light nice to look at? NO. They are there for your safety and asking the HOA or the County to remove the signs to suit you is a safety concern.
After Braemar got past the sign issue for the evening, a gentleman was protesting a violation notice he had for improper placement of a basketball hoop. He said he was submitting an application, as he saw this as his primary sin. He informed the Board that after he submitted the application, he would be putting the basketball hoop back in its orginal place. When asked where that was, the gentleman replied, “At the end of our street.” One brave Braemar Board Member stated quickly why the application would be denied. “Sir, you do realize that the Board will say no because saying yes is condoning children playing in the street.” This home owner didn’t get it. He argued that his street was not busy. It was a cul-de-sac. (Oh, here we go again with the cul-de-sacs.) The Braemar Board Member said it best, “It’s a public street nonetheless and we can’t approve that application.” The home owner huffed out of the meeting.
The sense of entitlement of residents in an HOA can run deep. They seriously believe that HOAs exist solely to enforce beauty or to rule on the side of convenience or need of a resident. That’s not how it works. Adhering to safety guidelines is a huge concern to HOAs. If you don’t like it, and can’t see things from a broader, community perspective, perhaps you need to live on five acres, outside of HOA rule.