Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ornamentation and Rules Enforcement

Note: This is a reprint of a post I made last week on my personal blog.

To my fellow residents and the Board of Directors of Sherwood Glen:

By now I'm sure you've seen the notice recently posted on the bulletin boards, asking residents to inspect their property and determine if it is in compliance with the rules and regulations. The notice also has check boxes dealing with modifications that might have been made without proper forms or permission.

There was one item checked on my form, but I don’t want this to be just about me. For now I want to talk to you about lawn ornamentation in general.

Oh, hell no! Actually, I don’t want to talk to you about ornamentation. In fact, I can probably think of about 100 other problems facing society today, that we could discuss or a 100 things I would rather do than write this letter. The idea that I even have to write this saddens me. However, for whatever reason, lawn ornamentation is front and center right now here at Sherwood Glen.

So where do I start? Should I talk from my experience as a board member and past president? Should I start from the perspective of a long time (relative term) resident of Locksley Lane? Should I start from the perspective of someone totally outside the community? I guess it will be a mix, but for now, I think the logical place to start is with the rules. Please take a moment and read this section.

Outdoor Ornamentation:

1. Outdoor ornamentation within the grass areas is prohibited.
2. Ornamentation must blend with landscaping and the buildings, and may not contain spinners, propellers, or other moving parts.
3. The Board requires the removal of all ornamentation from all areas by November 15.
4. The Board reserves the right to review and request the removal of ornamentation it deems inappropriate.
Now that you have read the four sentences, let’s interpret the sentences one at a time. Some of the rules can be interpreted simply and others are subject to a high degree of subjectivity.
1) SIMPLE… NO ornamentation within the grass areas.
2) SUBJECTIVE… Defining what blends with landscaping could be argued all day.
SIMPLE… If the ornament is wind driven, it is not allowed.
3) SIMPLE… What goes out in the spring, must be removed by November 15.
4) SUBJECTIVE… The board can deem an ornament inappropriate.

I would strongly encourage the board to vigorously enforce items 1 and 3. That leaves us with items 2 and 4, which are not as clear cut.

With respect to items 2 and 4, parts are crystal clear, and I would encourage the board to vigorously enforce a prohibition on wind driven ornamentation. On the other hand, defining and acting on whether an ornament blends in, is an entirely different situation.

In order to deal with what is and what isn’t appropriate, let’s start with something that is not specifically stated, but is perfectly clear. You CAN have ornamentation in the berms.

Ask yourself, why would motivate anyone put anything in the berms? To me that answer is two-fold. I think people do it to increase the beauty of the area and to put a little bit of individuality on display. That is certainly our motivation.

Some people may say that some folks have gone overboard. That’s would be the case of items that are clearly prohibited by the rules. However, in terms of the subjective determination of what should or should not be on display. Who is to say how much is too much?


I’ve heard people talking about ornamentation as if driving through Sherwood Glen looked like this.



I think we could all agree that this lawn ornamentation would clearly be out of sync with the community landscaping and deemed inappropriate, but as I walk our development, I see no clutter, no pink flamingos, no wind driven washer women, no six-foot inflatable characters, and nothing that remotely resembles this.

Personally, I see no problem with ornamentation that exists here at Sherwood Glen. I understand that people have a different opinion and I respect that. All I will do is express my view and ask you to consider it as you form your own opinion. It is not for me to say that my ornamentation is right and yours is wrong. Nor is it your job to tell me mine is wrong.

As I walk the development, I see absolutely nothing in the berms that offends me or that I feel is inappropriate. Then again, people will have issue with my tolerance of personal expression. The things I see are placed there to enhance the area and as a personal expression of those within that unit. It’s one of the things that drew me to Sherwood Glen and that I have enjoyed since moving in.
I get that there are people who want total uniformity and rules enforced to the max, but I don’t think that is a commonly held value here in Sherwood Glen. I also know our state motto is NOT, Live free and conform!

I ask you to drive through this development as I did on May 22, 2015, and look at it through the eyes of someone who has never been here
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What do you think will stick with them? Will it be the beauty of the landscaping or will it be inappropriate lawn ornamentation? I bet you a thousand dollars, if a hundred people drove through here and were asked to comment on what they saw, there would be precious few who point to lawn ornamentation as a problem.

I think it is pretty clear the board wants to reign in some of the ornamentation that is clearly prohibited, and act to prevent people from being run over by a stampede of plastic flamingos. On the other hand, I hope they aren’t trying to turn the community into the visuals for a Judy Collins music video of Boxes, Little Boxes.

A balance must be struck. In my humble opinion, if the rules CLEARLY prohibit something, the board should deal with it and address that issue according to the rules. There is a clear process in place. Use it.

We have always had and ENCOURAGED, tasteful ornamentation. Therein lies part of the problem. As they say, there’s to accounting for taste, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. When it comes to ornamentation that is not excessive and specifically prohibited NO ONE INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS, should dictate who I am or how I express my individuality.
To the board, I say, thank you for acting to maintain order. Please enforce those rules that are clearly being violated and avoid acting on the words of a vocal few. Your challenge is to come up with a criteria by which residents can determines what defines inappropriate. If I have an ornament I want to put out on the berm, I should be able to look at the rules and determine if the ornament is a violation. 

Yes, there have been rules that have been stretched, but clearly there are violations that can identified by clear language in the rules. The board must implement a fair and equitable solution to the issues at hand, and to strike a balance that conforms to community standards.