Getting The Letter From The Nanny State

Mar 27, 2011 by

The rumors started a few days ago.

The kind met with “you’ve got to be kidding me,”  followed by a pause … followed by quick glances at each other. Your walk to the mailbox each morning is a little quicker; with a quicker glance through the mail. Not there.

Some rumors carry weight. This one did. A friend called the other day. She got The Letter. “I can’t believe it,” she told the Little Black Dress. “We don’t have anything.” The friend asked if we had received anything. We hadn’t.

That is until yesterday.

I usually get the mail. To be honest, I simply missed The Letter. I have no idea what that means on the subconscious level – maybe I just didn’t want to see it. But The Dress saw it.

And there it was, sitting on the kitchen table. We knew it was The Letter because it was in an official envelope, the return address was obvious. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, maybe it was for something else.

After opening The Letter, that would be a “no.”

Our yard is now classified as a cesspool.

The Letter made no mention of the three junked cars in the yard; nor the Winnebago with the flat tires and big blue tarp in the driveway. The old wooden sailboat, the chicken coops, the dog kennels, nothing.

Apparently, the Subdivision Police With Nothing Better To Do Than Compare Their Perfect Yards With The Lowlifes And Write Nasty Letters the nice community association manager did a drive-by. Our yard, according to the “last property inspection,” was found “in need of maintenance.”

To help our feeble minds wrap our heads around this, The Letter was so kind as to cite chapter and verse. To wit (and this is exactly how it appeared): Per the Use Restrictions for Lake Redwine Plantation Section 7 Nuisance states it shall be the responsibility of each owner to prevent the development of any unclean, unhealthy, unsightly, or unkempt condition of buildings or grounds of his or her Residential Unit.

Please have the weed control completed, grass cut, and any other maintenance that is required completed within 15 days of receipt of this letter.”

The Letter then nicely informed us that if our little brains still couldn’t figure out what to do, the Ivory Tower Where Important Things Occur had references for weed control companies. Companies that I’m sure did not pay for that reference.

Our slice of heaven, well former slice since our classification as low-lifes,  is quite large – 1,300-acre subdivision complete with a 300-acre lake. It is a very beautiful area with hundreds of homes ranging in price from the low 200’s to well into the millions. Okay, I realize that’s a pretty big range. Anyway …

For some reason, this letter did not sit well with yours truly.

Maybe it was the “cease and desist” tone. Maybe it was the We’re Really Going To Freak Them Out And Make Them Quiver In Their Closets And Show We Are Like Super Super Serious And Can Squash Them Like Bugs Because We Are The Mighty Subdivision Something tone of copying said Letter to the subdivision board of directors, and the subdivision attorney no less. I didn’t even know we had a subdivision attorney.

For the privilege of enjoying my former slice of heaven I paid $695 this year. I am allowed access to the lake (electric motors only); a few tennis courts (I don’t play); some outdoor playground equipment (not even close to what I have in my back yard); and two pools (one is the “kiddie” pool that is completely overcrowded to the point they made the other pool right next to it an “adult only” pool).

Now, being a former investigative reporter, my little mind started to, well, investigate. I also used to be a publisher and ran a newspaper, I have some tiny bit of understanding of budgets. I have never understood why my homeowner’s dues seem to increase each year. It’s a fairly easy process, new homes are being built all the time and the assessment is a simple “take the number of homes, divide by the budget and come up with the assessment.” But how my assessment keeps going up while new homes are being added is, well, something for another blog.

Anyway.

So my little brain started some calculations, you know, considering what the The Letter and all its efforts entailed, and was it really the best use of my subdivision dues.

The Letter came in an official envelope printed with the subdivision’s name and address – I paid for that; The Letter itself was on printed stationary – I paid for that; The Letter was mailed – I paid for the stamp; the salary of the Subdivision Police With Nothing Better To Do Than Compare Their Perfect Yards With the Low-lifes And Write Nasty Letters nice community manager – I paid for that. And she was gracious enough to take time out of her incredibly busy day to write me The Letter.

And with gas running at $3.50 a gallon, wonder if I’m paying for the reimbursement for that as well – we have miles and miles and miles of roads in this 1,300-acre subdivision. Oh, and the pens used to write The Letter, and the ink used to print said Letter. And what about the 15-day followup? More gas, more time, more …

And since copies of The Letter went to the previously unknown subdivision attorney, are we looking at billable hours?

Based on the condition of my yard, I’m sure hundreds of others got The Letter, and the accompanying expenses.

Here’s a thought.

Too often we use a sledgehammer in life. We demand immediate action, we don’t try to at least be nice first.. Instead we send out The Letter, the THIRD AND FINAL NOTICE so to speak. Maybe we should slow down, try encouragement first.

And maybe we ought to think of priorities. There are a lot of people hurting financially in this country, and yes, even in our subdivision. Lots of houses for sale here, people losing their jobs. Figuring out what bills they can pay – food, health insurance, mortgage, utilities, weed control.

Mmmh.

Look at it this way – is it time for the Sons of Thunder to get out and mow? Yes. Spring is finally showing itself, some of our grass is starting to grow, other areas are still brown. But am I rushing out right now to fill up the mower with gas after getting The Letter?

No.

We have a community bulletin board at each entrance of our subdivision. How about a nice little note saying “Hurray! Spring is coming and the grass is finally starting to grow, don’t forget subdivision rules require you to keep your lawn in proper shape.” Or during the “property inspection,” sticking a nice generic note by the mailbox asking/reminding us to, you know, do what we’re planning on getting around to doing anyway. They are already spending the gas to do the “property inspection,” but at least we’d save the attorney fees, postage, envelopes, stationary, time, etc.

But human nature being what it is, everyone will probably wait until the 15th day to mow. Some will wait till they get The Second Letter. Part of me, with a somewhat ornery streak, wants to wait, just to see what The Second Letter will say. Probably threaten me with sending in weed control who will spray my yard green and then have mowers come in and cut my yard so short everything will die.

Or not let me use the pool.

Oh, and here’s my cesspool:

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