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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


Step 1 - buy home at Mueller

Step 2 - paint your Mueller house bright orange (or another "unapproved" color) without getting permission from the "modifications council"... or just do it anyway when they say you can't.

Step 3 - Be found "in violation" of Mueller rules. Refuse to repaint your house.

Step 4 - Watch as the HOA itself repaints your house back to white/beige/etc. and then bills you for the cost.

Step 5 - Refuse to pay for the cost of painting your house back to white.

Step 6 - Get foreclosed upon and kicked out of Mueller by the HOA, as it states in the rules that any moneys you owe the HOA are considered a LIEN on your property! No, really...

Marcus Sanford [marcus cxe msanford punkto com] • 2007.03.12
I just had a long talk with a friend who is on the board of the HOA of an unnamed subdivision in Austin. It's worse than I thought. Although he manages to avoid enforcing them strictly, the rules at his HOA:

- completely ban all political signs or any other signs except "For Sale";

- pay a management company to patrol the neighborhood and denounce anyone with a weed in the lawn;

- require HOA approval before you can plant anything which will grow over 2' tall;

- require you to keep your lawn green in the summer;

- prohibit tall grass (i.e., native wildflower meadows) even in your back yard;

- permit you to install solar panels only with the approval of your neighbors;

- ban gay couples by prohibiting unmarried non-relatives from living under the same roof.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2007.03.13
The current version of the "Mueller Master Community Covenant" can apparently be accessed at the County Clerk's website. Thanks to the original poster, Tiffany, who shared this in the

It took me a while to figure it out, but just copy/paste the 10-digit number under the OPR tab. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but I'd welcome interpretations.

Official Public Records (OPR) under Instrument # 2004238007 at the Travis County Clerk’s website at this URL:

By the way, I went to one of the meetings, and after a bit of pressing, someone aknowledged that HOA fees for the row houses would be closer to $100 b/c they will mow the tiny strip of grass in the front "yard" and take care of the siding/fascia. That's really unattractive to those of us seeking "affordable" housing.

LC [topaz1115_6 cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2007.03.13
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