So what are these and how do the affect you?
Let’s say you have a new subdivision planned. Perhaps 10 new houses will be built in a little loop, maybe Harmony Acres or some other sweet sounding name.
Well, the houses get built, but one of the stipulations of owning that house or living there is that you sign this neighborhood covenant. This is pretty much just a piece of paper with a bunch of rules you agree to live by. What rules?
Here are some common stipulations in neighborhood covenants in Montana:
- Number of Pets
- Parking on the Street
- Garbage Cans
- Lawn Maintenance
- Noise Levels
- Vehicle Traffic
The list goes on. In other words these are kind of like the laws cities have, but since many of these subdivisions like Harmony Acres lie outside the city they don’t really apply. They fall into a kind of grey zone that can be extremely frustrating for land owners.
Frustrations with Montana Covenants
Well, guess what? That’s not allowed by the covenant. But Jim is breaking the covenant!
So you go over to Jim’s house one night, politely knock on his door, and ask him if he’d mind moving his truck and trailer to the garage, or if that’s full, the backyard. After all, Jim, you signed the neighborhood covenant when you moved in.
Jim tells you to go fuck yourself. Now what do you do? Complain to the person that wrote up the covenant, the developer? If you’re homeowner’s association is anything like the one my mom lives in over in Helena, chances are good the owner is living near you and breaking the covenant’s himself (my mom’s neighbor has too many dogs).
So what can be done? The only option is to sue your neighbor.
More Options for Montana Neighborhood Covenants
So what can be done? We need to offer recourse at the county level. Even having people come in and fill out a single piece of paper complaint sheet would make them feel good.
Right now if they can’t sue they have no recourse. That’s frustrating, and that frustration turns to resentment and anger. Pretty soon the person is blaming the government (city, county, state – it doesn’t matter because we often don’t know where the problems lie) and then you’ve got a lot of people hating government.
Do we need more people in Montana that hate government?
A Chance to Work Across the Aisle
See what issues they care about and I know these zoning issues are going on in all 56 counties of the state. We can find common ground with those folks right away before things even get going in Helena.
If we do that and support them then, we know they’ll come over and at least listen to us on the really tough issues we care about, and frankly, aren’t going to get through committee or voted on down on the floor without their help.
This seems like an issue that affects many in Montana regardless of their party affiliation, and if democrats want to win allies in Helena, they should jump on this early and offer concrete and long-term solutions that benefit all.