On Living in a Gated Community
written by Laramie:
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If you haven't thought of living in a "secure, tightly restricted, gated, walled community," you might want to reconsider your options. Just driving up to the checkpoint front entrance of such a place can bring on a feeling of privacy, safety and, at the least, a feeling of potentially successful retirement living, knowing that you are out of earshot of the rumble and roar of big city life.
As you pull into the driveway, the first thing you see are the large, closed gates, that open only on remote control orders from Security people or the transponder on any homeowner's windshield. Then you see the security building, where the rent-a-cop personnel behind glass enclosures ask you your business, to insure strict but friendly compliance with entry regulations. If you listen carefully you might hear the driver of a visiting car just ahead of you in line yell through the open window, "Just going in for a bite to eat," or "Gonna try to get in a few holes of golf, if possible", and the gates swing wide open. Or maybe you want to inspect some model homes with an eye to buying. They'll usher you right in for that too. And if these attempts at entry to the grounds fall through, there's always the back gate, a not so secret place where you can wait for a homeowner to enter, then sneak in, keeping close to their bumper as they enter so the gate doesn't shut on the hood of your car. There's usually no security guard stationed at the rear entrance, but there might be surveillance cameras ready to alert the front gate. Better yet, the young and healthy just shinny up and over the back wall and they're in, safe and sound. Homeowners can sleep soundly knowing the safety of their homes is in such good hands.
Next you have to watch out for the posted speed limit, which is usually 15mph. But beware of speeding golf carts, skateboards, bicycles, joggers and walkers, going every which way, some obeying stop signs, some not. Remember, this is their turf, they paid their dues, and they have the right of way, they think. Occasionally you'll find motor homes parked on the grounds, but only for very short periods, sometimes two or three days, because they can restrict a homeowner's view, so they can't set up permanent quarters. Any visitor's car or motor home must have a permit, showing they that went through the proper entry procedure to the complex, and it must be set in plain view in their cab interiors. Citations can be given to violators of the speed limit, or other regulations, but frankly, the Police never seem to get involved in any of these heinous gated community crimes.
Suppose you want information about homeowner rules and regulations, if you're serious about buying. The sales representatives on the grounds will be glad to fill you in on that. First off, they'll tell you front doors must be hidden behind bronze, self closing screen doors. And front and rear patio lights are to be bought according to specific serial numbers from certain stores only, and American flags, if you choose to wave them, can only be specific sizes, not so as to be overly visible. Burglar lights, supposedly bright enough to discourage home invaders, but that can be seen from the space shuttle, are forbidden. Be careful, as any violation of these or any community regulation can result in a fine to be determined by an elected Homeowner's Association. And, if not paid in a reasonable amount of time, they come due, plus interest, when the house is sold and in Escrow. They've got you where they want you.
Homeowners are responsible for caring for any plantings set among the ones dug in for them by the Homeowners Association, and only certain plants are approved of. Plant care includes watering, fertilizing and pruning. Patio furniture can be neither too large nor too numerous, and colors must be selected from an approved list. Beware of the dreaded oversized, brightly patterned couches and chairs. They must blend in with the serenity of the peaceful community. Volunteer Homeowner Association Board members will often make reconnaisance trips around the streets and lawns, searching for anyone who dares violate the rules. Here, sadly, routine enforcement is often not the rule.
If you choose to live on a golf fairway, the Homeowner's Association will repair any holes that errant shots dig into your stucco, and they'll repair broken tiles or roofing where golf balls have been struck. What they won't do is repair any broken windows, which of course is what usually happens to houses on fairways. And the windows must be replaced with dispatch. Yes, you pay for this service, in Homeowner's Association monthly dues, and those can run upwards to $1000 per month or more.
Each homeowner is assessed anywhere from $400 to $1000 per year, which is based on the luxury of your community, for what is called a food & beverage fee. Whether or not you eat or drink in any restaurant, snack shop or bar on the premises, you will be billed that amount, regardless of the quality or quantity of the dining accommodations. So eat, drink, and be merry, as you'll pay in the end regardless.
In most gated communitys, there are swimming pools for the homeowners and guests to use, and they often have attached jacuzzis, and if you're lucky, a shower. Of course no dogs are allowed in the pool, or diapered children. And swimmers under 16 years of age might require adult supervision. No glass containers are allowed, and "please leave the entry gate closed" signs are posted. Loud music is never permitted and no music whatsoever after 10:00 PM. In these surroundings, there are usually lots of retirees, and they go to bed early.
All in all, living in a gated, walled community, especially if it includes an enclosed golf course, has benefits overriding any supposed drawbacks. The one that means the most, I believe, is the silent calm of the neighborhoods and most of the residents. For the most part, homeowners are looking only to be undisturbed, anxious that each day is filled with quiet solitude, sprinkled with occasional night visits to favorite eateries with friends or visiting relatives. Add to this a casual, friendly round of golf or set of tennis or a dip in a pool once in a while, and suddenly, within the walls, time seems to stand still, ancient troubles and worries are cast off, and it feels as though all is well with the world.
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