Resisting the Neatness Police

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Kenneth City, Fla. council members want their fellow residents to cut their grass, paint their houses, and allow officials to inspect homes to make sure that everyone is meeting acceptable standards of neatness.

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/frankenstein_villagers488.jpg

But a motley crowd of voters showed up to object to the new ordinance. According to the St. Petersburg Times:

Council members caved in to demands from an angry crowd and delayed approving a neatness ordinance until officials explain every word of the 26-page document to Kenneth City residents.

In what was estimated to be the largest crowd to ever attend a Kenneth City Council meeting, an outraged group of residents railed at the proposal that would regulate the upkeep of both the exterior and interior of all property in the town.

The proposal basically sets standards for upkeep and appearance and gives town officials the right to enter homes. If the owner refuses to allow the official to enter, the town can go to a judge for an "administrative search warrant" to allow access to the interior of buildings. Violations would cost up to $250 a day.

Angry residents likened the proposal to rules created by Communist or Nazi dictatorships. One person said the result would be to create a network of spies to snitch on neighbors to council members and other town officials. Someone suggested the town should change its name from Kenneth City to "Petty City."

 Apparently the ordinance is not all that unusual. As the St. Pete Times reports:

…the ordinance is a virtual copy of others in places like Fort Walton Beach and Belleair Beach.

Nothing like local tyrannies! Whole article here.

Hat tip to D.A. Ridgely. 

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  1. Wriggley’s!

    In other news from the Wrigglo-sphere, Art Of the Possible (A.O.T.P.) is now closed. They nvr did invite me to be a blogger there, sadly.

  2. It’s really bizarre how the idea of personal property has eroded in contemporary culture. That a jurisdiction would even think of sending agents into people’s homes to access maintenance speaks to mindset in which individual rights and differences mean nothing.

    I really hope this is a case of bad reporting.

  3. Florida is nuts with this stuff.

    I once passed a development that had a nice brick wall around it. By the gate, there was gold lettering that read: “Willowgate: A Deed-Restricted Community.”

    People in Florida sure do love them some restrictions.

  4. welcome to Duloc, such a perfect town
    here we have some rules, let us lay them down

  5. People in Florida sure do love them some restrictions.

    Urban planning at its finest.

  6. Here in South Florida there’s one of those gated communities with a name that’s both hilarious and incredibly douchey: The Winner’s Circle.

  7. “Willowgate: A Deed-Restricted Community.”

    What’s that?

  8. I guess I don’t see the problem here. Despite some noisy objections, people as a whole seem to want this sort of thing. So be it.

  9. I guess I don’t see the problem here. Despite some noisy objections, people as a whole seem to want this sort of thing. So be it

    As a covenant on the deed, I guess I can’t object even though I despise the things and think they should sunset after a fixed number of years. As an Ordinance, I have issues with it, as I don’t like the idea of govt having free access to your house over stupid stuff.

  10. Exactly why would libertarians have a problem with Deed-Restricted Communities.

  11. Exactly why would libertarians have a problem with Deed-Restricted Communities.

    It’s not about that, that’s joe’s attempt to hijack the thread. The article is about an ordinance, which is bad.

  12. It’s not entirely clear from the article, but this is an actual town, not an overgrown HOA (which is what governs a deed-restricted community, right?)

  13. If the owner refuses to allow the official to enter, the town can go to a judge for an “administrative search warrant” to allow access to the interior of buildings.

    Denial of access equals admission of guilt.

    A “deed restricted community” in which everyone has knowingly accepted the terms prior to closing is worlds apart from the city council imposing an ordinance.

  14. Nothing like local tyrannies! Whole article here.

    I first read this as “Nothing like local trannies!”

  15. This ordnace also seems to be a clear 4th amendment violation (which if, wikipedia is correct, applies to states as well). Even it is authorized by a judge, searching for ‘neatness’ has got to be prima facie ‘unreasonable’

  16. It looks like the fl constition is specific on incorporating the US 4th


    SECTION 12. Searches and seizures.–The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated. No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained. This right shall be construed in conformity with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Articles or information obtained in violation of this right shall not be admissible in evidence if such articles or information would be inadmissible under decisions of the United States Supreme Court construing the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

  17. I’ll be okay as long as my dope is in baggies, and not scattered all over the coffee table, right?

  18. Hrrm, I lived in Fort Walton for 10 years. I remember the city “beautification ordinances” were somewhat enforced (had a row with the city over house painting once) but didn’t realize that extended to the inside.

    According to this, it does indeed and you must grant access to city inspectors.

  19. Kolohe | December 2, 2008, 5:47pm | #
    It’s not entirely clear from the article, but this is an actual town, not an overgrown HOA (which is what governs a deed-restricted community, right?)

    Yes, a town/city government. Not an HOA.

  20. I guess the key word here is “unreasonable.” If the law is passed by elected representatives, and supported by a majority of the population, does that not make it reasonable?

  21. I say we make an ordinance to sell Florida back to Spain.

  22. What’s the frequency Kenneth City?

    I’m aware of Kenneth City’s existence, having lived in the Bay Area for many years, but damned if I’ve ever been there. It’s somewhere between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, I think.

    Mo,

    Florida has a lot of good qualities, but we’re constantly contending with the flood of people from elsewhere who are determined to screw up our good situation.

  23. I’m assuming the inspectors would have the right to shoot household pets “for their protection”, right?

  24. Stories like this make me want to go to the gun show and buy an AK-47.

    Just to be safe.

    Any town where the government is concerned with whether I should repaint the living room is no place for me.

  25. The funny thing is that Florida tries harder than any other state to control the appearance of property, either via direct ordinance as in this example or via HOA’s, and it’s still the ugliest place in the country.

    How’s that whole deed restriction thing working out, Looks Like My Ass After Ordering Cajun Food State? Oops, I mean, Florida?

  26. I wonder what happens if the neatness inspectors see drug paraphernalia cluttering an otherwise neat living room.

  27. They used to do this in China under Mao. There would be neighborhood inspectors that would come into your house to see that it was neat and clean and to make sure you weren’t keeping anything in your house that you shouldn’t. You want to be a good neighbor don’t you?

  28. Urban planning at its finest.

    No, surburban planning at its lamest.

  29. Whatever the mechanism – HOA or municipality – there seems to be a lot of support in Florida for sending inspectors into your neighbor’s property to dictate how he keeps it. I’ve never seen people put up with so many ticky-tacky rules.

    Is it the old people, or what?

  30. Pro L,

    FL is like CA’s retarded brother. For some reason, FL is the US champion of oddly enough news stories*. If there’s something fucked up happening in the US chance are it happens in FL. If not there, then usually it’s OH, TX or CA, in that order.

    * Germany, of course, being the global champ.

  31. Is it the same way in other rapidly-growing sunbelt states, like Arizona and Nevada, or is there something unique to Florida that makes people insist that everybody on the street use the same color roofing shingles?

  32. trolling troll is troll

    libertarians love abstract, fact-free arguments– often, justifications for why property is an absolute right.

    trolling troll is troll

  33. 1. This story.
    2. When Tennessee considered an income tax, people drove around the capital, honking horns, blocking doorways, yelling at state reps, etc until multiple (I think it was two, maybe only one) reps died of heart attacks. Income tax didnt pass.
    3. We use to tar and feather politicians who acted like tyrants.

    I will let others determine the lesson.

  34. I think, combined with an earlier thread, a lesson might be that mob violence directed at politicians is good, directed at Wal-mart greeters is bad.

  35. I think the house I bought last year was about the only one (there may have been others but I dont remember them) that I looked at that wasnt part of a HOA. It had nothing to do with me choosing it, but I considered it a sweet bonus.

  36. Oddly enough, Florida probably has one of the best state governments in the country. Go figure.

  37. If the law is passed by elected representatives, and supported by a majority of the population, does that not make it reasonable?

    And if the majority supports the stoning of homosexuals?

  38. Florida probably has one of the best state governments in the country

    Why, thank you Mr. Libertate. You are such a gentleman.

    *bats eyelashes*

  39. Oddly enough, Florida probably has one of the best state governments in the country. Go figure.

    Texas? New Hampshire?

    FL is like CA’s retarded brother. For some reason, FL is the US champion of oddly enough news stories*. If there’s something fucked up happening in the US chance are it happens in FL. If not there, then usually it’s OH, TX or CA, in that order.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of people live in those states. I’d say the highest per-capita WTF rate comes from New Mexico.

  40. the global champ for news of the weird is Japan, not Germany, Mo, though they’re a close second.

    I live about 30 minutes’ drive from Kenneth City and have actually driven past it recently, yet I’ve never actually been aware of its existence.

  41. If they can’t see inside your house, why would they give a damn what it looks like?

    I know laws don’t usually make sense, but this sounds too funky to be legit. They want in your house so they can snoop around.

    You know what? How about the council members who vote for this measure leave their doors unlocked? That way the citizens can go in their house any time they want and check how “neat” it is.

  42. Restricted communities are a pain in the ass. It’s amazing how many people think that their property values are inextricably tied to whether you leave your grill on the balcony or in the shed.

  43. Florida’s elected two very able, no-nonsense governors in a row now. I might not agree with JEB and Crist about a lot of thing, but they were very able executives.

    So, Pro Lib, who’s going to win Mel Martinez seat? I’m hoping we get to see Debbie Wasserman-Shultz smack around Katherine Harris.

  44. A little context: Kenneth City is a place where it is not uncommon to see a broken stove, failed kit car project on blocks and half a boat lying upside down in the front yard. Well, maybe that’s not common, but you get the point. Belleair, by contrast, is where one blade of grass out of place gets shocked stares and Hulk Hogan gets run out of town for being obnoxious.

  45. There should be absolutely NOTHING wrong with having a Webcam in every room of every home … no one should be doing anything wrong anyway?

    …just troll’n

  46. I’ve said it before, but Florida looks like a big droopy dick for a reason.

  47. The difference between deed restrictions and ordinances should not be glossed over so easily.

    A deed restriction is something that you have notice of and agree to in advance, and can’t be changed without your consent. It is an essentially private transaction.

    An ordinance is something that is imposed on you without your consent. It is an action of the state.

  48. The difference between deed restrictions and ordinances should not be glossed over so easily.

    A deed restriction is something that you have notice of and agree to in advance…

    The difference between people who welcome intrusive restrictions on how you can keep your house as written by an HOA, and those who welcome such restriction as written by a town council, is meaningless enough to blow right by.

    …and can’t be changed without your consent. This is incorrect. The regs in an HOA can be changed by a majority vote, and can impose restrictions against the will of an individual homeowner who votes no, just like an ordinance.

    There is a difference between HOA regs and local bylaws, but that’s not it, RC.

  49. “The difference between people who welcome intrusive restrictions on how you can keep your house as written by an HOA, and those who welcome such restriction as written by a town council, is meaningless enough to blow right by.”

    To be fair, an HOA is a lot more local then even a local government. I tend to see HOAs similarly to unions. Non-governmental and good in theory, but corrupt and overbearing in practice.

  50. Texas’s state government is nice enough until you have have kids, assuming you can’t afford private school. According to our governor, our education system’s woes are Darwin’s fault.

    I suspect the best run state right now is Tennessee…

  51. Lamar,

    That might be true in general, but there are some HOAs that cover thousands of units, and some municipalities with only a couple of hundred residents.

  52. HOAs are an example of Social Contract theory is practice, unlike government. You know, in that the contract actually exists.

    Based on my interactions, both real and fake social contract theory blow.

  53. “That might be true in general, but there are some HOAs that cover thousands of units, and some municipalities with only a couple of hundred residents.”

    That’s why I like to avoid broad generalizations. There are so many variations on HOAs and municipalities that statements of universal application are nearly impossible.

  54. This is incorrect. The regs in an HOA can be changed by a majority vote, and can impose restrictions against the will of an individual homeowner who votes no, just like an ordinance.

    Well, there is a difference between deed restrictions and an HOA. I’ve written dozens of deeds that have restrictions, not one of which created or referred to an HOA.

    But, where an HOA is established via deed restrictions, the HOA may be empowered to change the rules without the consent of every homeowner (although I’ve seen them that do require the consent of every homeowner for some changes, as well).

    HOAs also have a much tougher time accessing the police power than do municipal governments; HOAs typically have to proceed essentially on breach of contract grounds, get a judgment, try to enforce the judgment, get a lien, etc. before they can get the sheriff to kick down your door.

    So, sure, the rule-writing process for an HOA may look a lot like a village council, granted. But the similarities don’t extend indefinitely.

    There are so many variations on HOAs and municipalities that statements of universal application are nearly impossible.

    I’ll go along with that, although in a joe-ish spirit of picayune nit-picking, I will stand by earlier statement that deed restrictions qua deed restrictions are very different from municipal ordinances.

  55. “I’ll go along with that, although in a joe-ish spirit of picayune nit-picking, I will stand by earlier statement that deed restrictions qua deed restrictions are very different from municipal ordinances.”

    I agree with you that private arrangements are the best way to ensure some semblance of assurance that a property or community won’t go to crap three years after you buy in. Of course, the second somebody puts up a fence slightly ahead of the prescribed setback, hell rains down on the cul-de-sac, accusations fly, dogs poop in front yards under cover of darkness, and Beaver loses his innocence….

  56. 911, I would like to report a thread hijack incident down on Route 81 South of Boca Raton. Yes, subject matter concerned a municipal ordinance violating the 4th Amendment, criminal managed to derail it and change the subject to an entirely unrelated matter. Usual suspect? Yes, the usual suspect.

  57. “I once passed a development that had a nice brick wall around it. By the gate, there was gold lettering that read: ‘Willowgate: A Deed-Restricted Community.'”

    They do that so that nobody can claim they bought a house in that subdivision without knowing about the restrictions.

  58. Deed restrictions are not libertarian. They are not contracts, as they may never be renegotiated, remain in effect both of the parties have deceased, and apply to third parties. By accepting a deed restriction, you are agreeing to impose restrictions on your heirs. Thus they have a closer relationship to manorial feudalism than they do to anything capitalistic.

  59. a network of spies to snitch on neighbors

    I thought that was the whole purpose of home-owners’ associations.

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