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My Mueller HOAphobia

As part of my Mueller research I've also asked about the homeowner's association. The very nice person at Mueller Central was quick to be reassuring about most people's big worry, the dues (TBD, but about $40/month) and then said exactly what I didn't want to hear:

"Its purpose is to make sure people mow their yards and don't paint their houses crazy colors."

Noooo! (Cue the theme from Psycho.) This while we were standing by an oversized Keep Austin Weird t-shirt in the marketing display. I don't think she got the irony.

I understand the need in the new urbanist model for establishing a design which encourages neighborliness and protects the commons. That's one of the great appeals of Mueller. But I believe the right approach, especially the right Austin approach, is to create a careful initial design and then let it evolve naturally. Nationally, HOAs have become a nightmare of petty Stepford Wives-ism, recently ruled unaccountable to the usual checks and balances on government. If you sign your standard suburban HOA, you have literally signed away your first-amendment rights.

I pressed a couple of other Catellus people on this and was told that the HOA rules were already determined as part of the original Mueller plan. They are not, however, published -- that should happen "soon". They consist of two parts, a section set in stone which canot be overturned "without lawyers" and another section which can be amended by the HOA board, once people have moved in and elected one. This is depressing, although I suppose that theoretically if the agreement is totally outrageous, there's still a window in which an RG4N-style rebellion could get it changed by the City Council and Catellus -- up until the day when homebuyers start signing the thing.

I would love to know that I'm wrong and that this HOA is different from the usual suburba-nazi model. If anyone out there has a copy, or knows by whom and by what process it was written, please let me know. If it's not posted on the Catellus site soon I may start making a few phone calls.

causes 2007.03.10 link


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