If you want to live green, your homeowner association may get in your way. Columnist Alex Beam of the International Herald Tribune learned that clothes dryers account for as much as 10 percent of home energy use. He seriously considered drying his clothes outside on a clothes line or rack. One Web site suggests that New England residents could save enough energy to close "several power plants" if they used their clothes lines.

Big problem, though. Many homeowner associations don't permit outdoor clothes lines. Beam quotes the president of the California Association of Homeowners Associations who told a legal magazine that a clothes line can lower property values by 15 percent. What absolute dribble!

My next-door neighbor has lived her house since her husband purchased it new in 1950. She has never owned a clothes dryer. In recent years there has been massive gentrification with million-dollar homes springing up on lots all around us. Not once have I heard concern that her weekly routine has lowered the value of her home or any other property in the neighborhood.

Homeowner associations have spawned more mini-dictators than any other element of our society. I truly get outraged when I hear of deliberate intrusions on personal rights. I have a friend who writes for the LA Times, and his association president physically changed the light bulb on his porch because it wasn't the right shade. There are other stories of associations that don't allow homeowers to work on their cars in their own driveway. Some associations don't allow motorcycles or even pickup trucks on the homeowner's property. Some don't even allow basketball backboards or tree houses. And now they dictate how you dry your clothes.

Please, someone show me a comprehensive, independently funded study that concludes that any of the aforementioned household improvements truly brings down the value of a house or a neighbor's house. I don't want a realtor's opinion. I want hard facts over the course of a decade that proves a clothes line lowers the value of a neighbor's house by $50,000 or $60,000. This home-value argument is a complete fascist smokescreen for control freaks. And don't give me the classic argument: if you don't like it you don't have to live there. Every new development that might be affordable to new homeowners is instituting these stupid restrictions. Either you live there or you find a home another hour's drive away from your work. A general set of guidelines to address health concerns and basic upkeep for a neighborhood is okay, but force a homeowner to hang a particular curtain? It's just not right.

At least in Florida, according to Beam, the legislature understands personal freedom and has granted homeowners the right to hang out their underwear. Bravo!

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[Source: International Herald Tribune]