Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gated Communities

I do not like the idea of gated communities. They bring to mind a certain type of person who wants to exclude people from his or her community. These people seem to achieve a sense of power when the guard recognizes them at the gate.

Well, I have a confession to make. I live in a gated and guarded community. Some people think we live in this community because we are rich. In fact the opposite is true. If I were truly rich, I could afford to purchase enough land to give me a buffer. Alas, I cannot. So the next best thing is a gated community that provides the same land use values I hold dear.

My community is almost 40 years old, ancient for a gated mountain community. It is four thousand acres and more than 50 miles of paved road. Green space between lots is owned by the Property Owners Association (POA), as are the facilities and amenities. Yes, we have a clubhouse and a golf course. But we also have a bluebird club that builds and maintains bluebird houses all over the golf course. The golf facilities are increasingly subsidized by the POA because more and more of the residents are hikers and fewer and fewer are golfers.

My community has very strict land-use regulations that some people would not want to live with. We have no problem, because the regulations mirror our own environmental concerns.

So why, you may ask, do you need a buffer? The answer is quite simple. Transylvania County has NO county-wide zoning restrictions. The idea is that "a man can do what he wants to do with his own property." There is nothing to prohibit your neighbor from opening a loud honky tonk, or a dirt bike rally, or a garage. Almost as important, there is nothing to prohibit the junk he may accumulate in his yard.

Here are a few snapshots of people I don't want for neighbors:

So I live in a gated community. Where else can I go less than a mile and watch the hazy mountains come to life? This view from a byway near one of the trail heads.

Where else can I take a hike down to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area? This is the waterfall for which my community is named.

One of these days I will take you on a tour of my community. You would love it here.


Melissa Weisbard said...

You are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. I live in an average suburb of ranch-type homes. However, right now it looks like a bomb went off because of the ice storm we had. It is going to take a while to clean up the mess.

Cedar ... said...

While I abhor "elitist" attitude, I don't see your community as that. I see it as what i also would choose because it is what i would want to surround myself with for natural beauty. Hats off to your POA for being good stewards of the land. The Adirondacks have the APA (Adirondack Park Agency) which is regulatory and although it isn't always popular, it and the state legal designation for the "park" have combined to prevent much of the negative impact. There is still poverty and also careless use of private land at times, but it isn't widespread.

dguzman said...

I agree with you on the fact that whenever you let man do as he will with his own property, he tends to just junk it up. There are lots of people in Penns Valley who do that, with acres of old junk cars and crap.

You sure do live in a beautiful, if gated, community. It's a trade-off I'd take too.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

I'm exactly like you.. I don't like gated communities per say--but I love our resort area. We have a Community Club--which makes rules for us, some of which one may not like--but it keeps the area and the homes nice looking.

Some of our rules:
-You cannot cut down any trees on your property unless you replace them.
-You cannot hang clothes outside on a line in the yard.
-You cannot have fences
-You cannot allow a big vehicle or camping trailer to sit in your yard
-You have to get permission to make cosmetic or other changes to the outside of your home.
-Pets cannot run freely; must be on a leash
-No veggie gardens allowed

Some of our rules, we may not like--but overall, they keep our area in good shape. We also have parks, walking trails, recreation facilities, indoor and outdoor pools, lots of golf courses, horseback riding facilities, and an area where you can rent land to have grow own garden.

We love it--and it's quiet around here (except for those darn yappy dogs which we can hear inside people's homes or on their porches). We also feel safe since there is almost no crime in this area. Thank God!!!

We call your picture of the trashy places, "Tennessee Trailer Trash"... We have lots of them also!!! Yuk!

Thanks for a great post.

Cicero Sings said...

Oh the yards we've seen. We live in a large community that is fairly loose in rules but there are some ... no gates though. I couldn't take gates!

It's too bad we humans need to have rules that need to be enforced to keep us on target!

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of gated or HOA'ed communities either, but I understand the point of yours. Mountain land is a rare and wonderful thing, and should be managed in a way that preserves the wonderful things we love about it.

In a related vein, there's a mini-farm for sale near us (26 mostly wooded acres, original log cabin, outbuildings, and reno-ready farmhouse) at a very reasonable price. So why haven't we jumped? Because the property right next door is filled to the gills with junk! Just couldn't walk outside and see that every day. I respect that people can do what they want where they live, but it's a shame they don't always give a rat's about how their sloppiness affects people around them.

Carol Murdock said...

Our farm is located in between two
towns.We are about 15 miles from either.We have what I think is a beautiful place at the end of our road.However the drive visitors
must view to get to us, is embarrasing to say the least!I don't understand why so many refuse to keep up their property.
We do have an iron gate at the end of our drive but only close and lock it if we expect to be gone overnight.

Dave's Bird Watching Blog said...

What a gorgeous waterfall! Did you guys get snow last night?

Cheryl said...

I am sure you have worked hard for everything that you have....nothing comes easy.
I am glad that you have found somewhere that you love and respect.....

I to would not like neighbours like the ones that you have shown.......they seem to have a lack of respect for the environment and the space around their home.....

Enjoy your beautiful home and area you have earnt it......

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I'd love to see a tour of your community. I understand why you would want to live there. I always wanted lake property but know in my heart that I'd be devastated to wind up with jet ski, speed boat, loud neighbors. (besides, we couldn't afford it!) So we looked for acrage where there would be no neighbors within sight.

I've been curious as to why you settled there so far from Wisconsin?

George said...

I have a question. Is there any way an outsider can get in to view your beautiful waterfall? I thoroughly understand why you need a strong POA to preserve the environment and quality of life.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

You have a lovely area.
I would want to protect it, too.

The disrespect for land is hard to look at--as if every spot outside is no one but theirs to dump stuff onto.

We live in a rural area and every spring, find old tires dumped in our ditches. Do these people think no one cares??

Ruth said...

Your community is lovely. We have much stricter bylaws in Ontario and I do not see properties with junk like you show. There are people who dump garbage in the country but it is not a big problem. Some of our subdivisions have had rules such as the no clothes line rule. That has now been challenged legally as people realize the importance of conserving electricity. I don't understand why Betsy's community would forbid a vegetable garden.

Unknown said...

The waterfalls are beautiful! I'm envious!

Unknown said...

If a gated community is what it takes to keep the land beautiful then so be it. Carolyn you care about the environment and your surroundings and there is nothing wrong with that.

Coffee with Cathy said...

Thank you, as always, for such insight and for lovely photos of a natural world few get to enjoy every day.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Carolyn,
Your neighbor photos look very similar to what my neighbor's have in their backyard. We've been to the township board, but it was a waste of time. I can certainly see where a gated community is beneficial--not just for the residents but the environment too.

Shelley said...

I love when a community has a shared purpose toward preserving nature and its surroundings. I love the idea you have a bluebird club. I understand how people might abhor the gated community - but sometimes it might be nice to have that added protection that my neighbor can't put an appliance on his front lawn and leave it there all year! I think our lake association accomplishes a few goals - we are trying to get all the residents to agree not to use fertilizer that can run off into the lake and this year I am suggesting organic fertilizer so some of those people who are crazy for green lawns have an alternative that won't harm our precious resource.

Raymonty said...

I wish that the government would put up some gates on how much money they spend. I like your photos.

NCmountainwoman said...

Melissa - Hope things begin to thaw out soon.

Cedar - Our POA are such good stewards that it took us an application and two visits from the committee to cut down a dead tree that might have fallen on our house.

Delia - A gated community seemed the only way to live the way we want to live.

Betsy - We could have a garden (and many people do). As for the barking dog, we called security because a new neighbor kept her dogs TIED up outside all day. Security handled the problem immediately and all is quiet.

Cicero - I didn't think I could take gates, either. But all three entrances are well out of the way of housing and we have car decals to open the gates automatically. The only inconvenience is that we have to call the gate when we have guests or workers so they will issue a pass.

Iris - When we were looking for houses, we found a perfect one...except for the loud pool hall nearby.

Carol - Having a secluded house with a driveway gate sounds ideal.

Dave - No, we did not get any snow. It went east, west, and north of us. I've got some pictures of an icy waterfall we visited today. It has been below freezing for the past three days. Daytime highs in the 20s.

Cheryl - We do feel as if we have earned a nice retirement place. We lived rather below our means all our lives.

Lynne - We have four lakes here. Only electric trolling motors are allowed. So it's mostly kayaks, canoes, and sailboats.

George - Only guests of property owners are allowed. Of course, we are property owners, you know.

Nina - I do believe that North Carolina has the biggest littering problem in the nation. People just throw trash out the window as they drive along. The tires they dump in the RIVERS!

Ruth - I definitely agree about the veggie garden. Some are more beautiful than flowers.

Nature Nut - Watch for Sunday's post. Another waterfall, this one with lots of ice.

Toni - There are none of the restrictions that we can't live with...even to homes needing to have natural colors or brick.

Cathy - I am always happy to share our lovely area.

Ruthie - The county has a group of volunteers to help people clean up their property. Many of them refuse the free help.

Shelley - We have very few homes with lawns. They are most often the ones on the golf course. Almost all the lots are wooded.

Raymonty - Thanks for dropping by. I love your dog!

Cara said...

I totally agree that many do not take care of their property...and, if they are only lazy, they should do better. But IF they are literally "dirt poor" and are disabled, can't afford the upkeep?

Gated communities are fine, especially if earned through hard work and savings; on the other hand, if you can't "afford" that gated community even IF you worked and saved and did the responsible thing?

In the economic meltdown we're seeing, I fear that "gated communities" whether "elite" or not might be a target of the have-nots, justified or not.

Not to rain on your parade, because I DO think your community sounds like a place I'd like to live...but the current problems of our country will affect all of us, rich, middle-class and poor.

troutbirder said...

I not as torn about this as it might appear. In principle I do not like "segregation" except for people who commit crimes. I do believe in strong local and county zoning laws and enforcement. Having a committe tell me I can saw down a tree about to fall on my house is a bit much. I have notice midwester states have people who mostly believe in picking up after themselves. Then there is Texas and the Deep South. The road ditches are full of trash.

Mary said...

I think your community deserves to be gated, as I would appreciate it, too, rather than to live next to what you showed...

I'm sure it's beautiful there, Carolyn. I'd love to see more.


NCmountainwoman said...

C.S. - I don't know what to say in response. Of course the economy affects all of us. If I lived in fear every day of being a target of the "have-nots" it would be a sad life indeed.

When we got married, my husband and I had nothing except huge college loans to repay and the ability to work. I know we have been fortunate to have good health and good opportunities. We have always given substantially to charity and helped those less fortunate than we.

I will not be made to feel guilty for enjoying the life we worked so hard to achieve. No matter how dirt poor you may be, there is always someone worse off. Should you be afraid of being a target of that person?

cedrorum said...

It is sad to me what humans will do to what otherwise would be a beautiful piece of land. unfortunately, we have the same eye sores down here at the coast.