Fifteen year old Collin Clabaugh has had a rough time of things lately. In late December 2018, at 14 years old, he was forced to move from his home in California to his grandparents’ home in Prescott, Arizona. His mother was very ill and hospitalized and his father was busy trying to take care of her. Then, in February of 2019, Collin’s mom, Bonnie, succumbed to organ failure due to medications she was taking. Two weeks after that, Collin’s father, Clay, killed himself. He couldn’t bear to go on without his wife. Collin has been living with his grandmother, Melodie Passmore, and her husband, Randy, at The Gardens at Willow Creek ever since.
Now, Collin and his grandmother are the subject of worldwide news coverage because the members of the homeowner’s association at The Gardens at Willow Creek have demanded that Collin move out by June 30, 2020. Why? Because Collin is under 19, the minimum age to reside in the senior living community where his grandparents had bought their home four years ago. The Gardens at Willow Creek is an age restricted community for people over age 55. Someone complained about Collin’s presence, prompting the HOA board to send Mrs. Passmore a strongly worded legal letter.
I hosted a lively Facebook discussion about this situation yesterday. A couple of people pointed out that legal documents must have teeth, otherwise they can be violated. I fully appreciate that point, although I also think there are extraordinary situations in which rules should be bent. Personally, I think a teenager who has nowhere else to go other than foster care after losing both parents to early death is in an extraordinary situation. There’s no way the Passmores could have foreseen that their grandson would be orphaned when they purchased their home. According to Mrs. Passmore’s Facebook post about this incident, they bought there because they could afford the house and liked it, not because they necessarily cared about living in a childfree community.
I did read in an article yesterday, that thanks to all of the furore over this situation, the HOA seems to want to try to reach a workable solution with the Passmores. I hope they do come to a resolution, since moving would be a true hardship for this family. The Passmores are in their 70s and no doubt expected that this would be the last home they’d ever need to buy. They’ve also spent a lot of money fixing up their home to their liking. Unfortunately, I suspect they’ll end up having to move, but maybe they’ll find a better place with conditions they can live with. Sometimes moving to a new home can be a blessing. It certainly has been for us on multiple occasions.
I hope that when Bill and I finally end our global adventures, we are able to buy a home in a rural area without having to deal with a homeowner’s association full of busybodies. I do understand why some people like them. They want to make sure their neighbors have to respect their rights and can’t do things that affect property values. But why purchase a home if you have a group of people telling you who can live there, how many pets you can have, what you can grow in your yard, and what color you can paint the shutters? If you don’t obey the covenants, which are sometimes enforced in an arbitrary manner, you can end up getting fined, in legal trouble, or even find yourself in foreclosure. In that situation, I would rather rent. That way, if the HOA or the landlord get too uppity, intrusive, or controlling, moving is much easier to do.
Of course, there are downsides to not living with a HOA. You might have neighbors who have no respect for other people and tell you to fuck off when you ask them to turn down their music or quit putting their dilapidated cars on cinder blocks in the front yard. But then, a lot of times, you can call the police if the neighbors are violating the law. I think Bill and I were happiest with our living situations when we were in homes that were out in the country. Neighbors were some distance away, and we had lots of trees around us for privacy. In Georgia, we lived in a house way back in the woods. In the summer, we couldn’t even see our neighbors’ houses. The only people who ever rang our doorbell were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our house in North Carolina was somewhat similar, in that it was rural and quiet, although the neighbors were closer. My idea of hell is living in a subdivision with zero lots… or in a condo or apartment where I have to share walls with three or four other families. I hope we never have to live that way again, although I would never say “never”.
I don’t know where we’ll be going after we’re done in Wiesbaden, but I hope it’s a place where people have hearts that still beat. Anyway, I wish Mrs. Passmore and her grandson, Collin, luck. Hopefully, they have a sharp lawyer who can help them out with this problem. Barring that, I hope their house sells quickly and they can move somewhere where people aren’t so compassion challenged.