Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Those People

Tuesday evening I spent at a meeting of the Homeowners Association of my neighborhood. We are a subdivision that is within, but literally on the edge of, the City of Lewes.

For many years, we looked out on farm fields on two sides. Some of those fields have lately been developed. On the last remaining there's a proposal for another large subdivision.

This is only to be expected, we live in a fast-growing area. And, if you look at the thing dispassionately, it makes more sense for these developments to be placed in or next to an established City, where services exist, rather than out in the rural area, where scattered subdivisions only weaken the agricultural economy and force extra expense upon the statewide tax base.

I was disappointed to learn that the Homeowners Association Board has proudly planted a "natural fence" at the end of the cul-de-sac that faces one of the new developments. There was never any suggestion that there be a vehicular connection between the neighboring subdivision and ours, but the homeowners say they want to block pedestrian and bicycle connections.

So they have started a hedgerow.

I asked why we should want to cut ourselves off from our new neighbors.

"If we let people start walking here, they will come to expect it and the next thing you know they will take over our roads."

That's a paraphrase of what one gentleman told me but it is essentially true to what he said. And he was not alone; rather a few others were horrified that I should suggest any form of connection between us and them. (Not all, of course)

I have two problems with this.

First, the roads of our subdivision are not "our roads." They are City of Lewes public roads and as such are open to all who wish to use them. Further, the right-of-way at the cul-de-sac end extends to the border between the two neighborhoods. It is designed to facilitate interconnection.

Second, creating subdivisions that are not connected to one another enforces a self-ghettoization in which we carefully screen ourselves from "others." This is not good for us; it threatens our soul. It is bad Karma. It is stupid.

Humans live in societies. Societies are, by their nature, social. We are meant to meet and interact with one another. When we fail to do that we diminish our lives and shrink our hearts.

The only justification for walling-off our neighbors is self-preservation. At some points in human history, and in some places today, we have had a need to separate from enemies. But within Delaware, within Lewes, that should not be necessary.

That we have a desire to wall-off our neighbors suggests, and creates, an enmity between us.

That is just sad.


Anonymous said...

They're all over the place.

A well off flood prone NJ subdivision is cut off from emergency services by a river. The town has parked emergency vehicles and stores equipment for 30 yrs. within the subdivision during rainy seasons to insure another house never burns to the ground.

A neighbor who has a 40 acre horse farm (with a $100,000/yr tax bill) offers the town an emergency access road & helps them build a bridge to withstand truck loads. Sor almost 10 yr. the residents of the subdivision have used this emergency access fas their personal driveway, delivery and contractor access. The neighbor has not said a word for 10 years.

The neighbor wants to build a second residence on the 40 acres parcel for his trainer that requires a variance.

The residents of the subdivision show up at the meeting demanding that the variance be denied because the the the applicant & his employees (one horse trainer) use thier road. They backed off and said they have no issue with the owner using "thier" road. They just don't want his "workers" using it.

It's was good to see the Zoning Board didn't let the complaint effect the application but these people are still out there...

John Mayo

Red7Eric said...

Wow -- I visit Sussex County (a LOT), but live in Capitol Hill (DC), where there is no such thing as an established "homeowners association." I've always been a little leery of such groups, which seem to spend most of their time telling their neighbors what colors they're not allowed to paint their houses. I know, I know ... property values and all that, but I guess I'm just a hippie at heart.

Nancy said...

I am a little surprized Mike, that with your planning background, you do not go directly into a discussion the connectivity rationale.

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