Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Safety & Kindness

To address an ongoing problem of cars parking on the streets, a Board sent the following paraphrased announcement, “In a continuing effort to make the streets safer for everyone, your Board requests some assistance.  If there is a vehicle parked on the street near you on a regular basis please send us an email with details.  We will arrange for stickering/towing.”

Here is an abbreviation of the response received by the Board from a distraught homeowner, “It brings me great sadness that a communication like this goes out to residents still working on developing friendly relations with their neighbors. We should strive at finding ways to build these relationships to blossom into ones that have mutual respect and concern for one and another. This in turn would promote concern for the neighbors and the community as a whole to prevent callous attitudes towards parking or any other ‘mandated good-things for the community’  actions.  Excessive policing or enforcement could prove counter-productive with a definite possibility of feeding into a displeasure which eventually grows to the point of hate and distrust.  I am a firm believer that it is easier getting people to do things out of love than fear.  Make people see the value of what is being asked and they will do it. It may be slow, but I know it will be permanent.” 

This sentiment is small comfort for a neighbor impacted by tragedy of improperly placed cars:   Children darting out into the street from behind a parked truck, and delayed/blocked emergency vehicles are foreseeable results of lax enforcement. 

While many community rules do provide for extended periods of time for compliance, vehicle violations are in a separate category creating serious safety situations.  Towing often occurs either immediately, or within 24 hours, depending on the circumstances outlined in the governing documents.  For communities that do not have an enforcement option, calling in the county reps, such as the fire marshal or code enforcement can be effective.

Yes, education is best in obtaining homeowner buy-in to your community’s regulations.  This ongoing process starts when a new homeowner first receives a copy of the land covenants.  Each year, a reminder of the top ten issues (such as pet and pool responsible behaviors) should be published and discussed.  This refreshes memories and reduces the number of ugly responses when a violation notice does have to be issued.

Part of the challenge of covenant enforcement stems from our default mindset as Americans:  Unlike citizens in many countries where everything is forbidden unless explicitly permitted by law, for us everything is permissible unless explicitly restricted.  Unless an immediate or meaningful consequence is likely, it is not a concern.  How many hours has it been since you last exceeded the speed limit?

The same thinking impacts whether a homeowner observes the contractual obligations in a homeowners association.  We are all responsible to our neighbors to educate ourselves on these expectations, and yes sometimes something as “mean” as towing is necessary.  We cannot afford to let over sensitivity result in avoidable tragedy.

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