A Boy and His Horse, and the HOA Too – Next City

A Boy and His Horse, and the HOA Too

A few weeks before Christmas, Alexander Gonzalez, who lives in the Skyline Bel Air Estates subdivision north of Tucson — in the lush and often posh foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains — learned that the miniature horse he purchased from the proceeds of running the cash register at his grandfather’s service station wasn’t allowed. Livestock? Sure. But no horses, big or small.

Then the eleven-year-old spent more than $1,000 of his own money for a special election to change the rules. He needed 288 votes, but in the end only 203 were cast, and half of those were against the HOA bylaw amendment. That’s a tough lesson for a fifth-grader, a kid who before his brush with the quasi-governmental board hadn’t even heard the acronyms HOA or CC&R.

Girl and miniature horse.
A girl and her miniature horse. Is it actually allowed by her HOA?
Photo courtesy Miniature Dream Parties, Inc.

HOA special elections are a funny thing. In my neighborhood of Civano, we recently held a special meeting to determine the need for a special election to throw out the full HOA board of directors. Why? I’m not sure. Certainly some of those who initiated the recall had personal vendettas against board members, and some felt snubbed or mistreated or angry at the larger “establishment.” Fortunately, our community did have a strong turnout and the recall was defeated 316 to 77. The next officially scheduled election is only eight weeks away, after all.

I am troubled that a group of anonymous homeowners was able to get 100 signatures on a petition, an action that then triggers the special meeting. I’m just as troubled that, by Arizona statute and our Civano HOA bylaws, a recall special meeting can be called, assuming enough signatures, without cause. In effect, anyone for any reason can initiate a petition that, as in this case, is deceptively worded. Once a hundred people sign it, the special meeting must be held, and at the cost of the HOA and its members.

The political science undergraduate student I once was says, “Yes, that’s an appropriate balance, ensuring the HOA board does not have too much power.” The 38-year-old homeowner I am now says, “No, show me real cause, in writing and available for review before a petition can be circulated. Show me the harm, or at least the intention of harm.”

If I sound cynical, that’s because the group behind the failed recall has a long and prickly history of trying to take community governance in its own hands. Rather than working within the system, it is trying to undermine it.

Civano's neighborhood center district.
Mixed-use homes in Civano’s neighborhood center district.
Photo by Simmons Buntin.

And because of that I now find myself a member of a committee evaluating Civano’s CC&Rs and bylaws. My primary goal is to ensure that the unique, New Urbanist components of our community regulations — the allowance of mixed uses, for example — are not removed.

My secondary goal: to work in a clause that allows miniature horses. Just imagine the good deeds this community could accomplish if we had the energy of entrepreneurial eleven-year-olds like Alexander Gonzalez!