Sometimes, Good Fences Are Not Good Enough


Good fences may make good neighbors, as the proverb goes. But they can play havoc in neighborhoods governed by community associations. Just ask Rick McCann. The 37-year-old home-building executive and his wife, Julia, erected a wooden fence around their house in Potomac a few years back to keep their young children out of traffic. But the home improvement ran afoul of their affluent Montgomery County community’s rules requiring that fences be approved by a committee of neighbors. The association sued the McCanns, asking a judge to force its removal.

After $25,000 in legal fees, the couple still has their fence, though a portion had to be moved as part of an out-of-court settlement. “It was just so ludicrous,” Rick McCann says. The fence looked no different from many others in the neighborhood, he contends, but reason was in short supply. “They didn’t want to lose,” he recalls, “and I was maybe a little pigheaded, too.” An extreme case, perhaps, but such disputes are becoming more frequent as Americans increasingly move into houses or condominiums governed by associations of neighbors, according to the Baltimore Sun.


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