PHOENIX - Cities and counties would be prohibited from requiring developers to establish "planned communities" with home owner associations as a condition of getting permits or a rezoning under a bill approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.
Nothing in what is now HB 2518 would stop a developer from establishing a planned community, complete with an HOA board - and all of the rules and regulations - for buyers who want that kind of structure. But they couldn't be forced to do it.
The measure, which still must be approved by the House, would also not preclude a requirement to ensure that residents in a subdivision contribute to maintaining common areas, walls or even privately owned streets.
But it would bar any mandate to set up homeowners associations with all of their rules about everything from parking to the size of flagpoles to when the trash can be put out - with citations for violations.
In Pima County the only local government that mandates developers create homeowner associations is Marana, where officials say they only do it for larger developments.
But such requirements are more common in other areas of the state.
The issue, according to Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, is choice, which she said does not exist in some rapidly growing cities.
Griffin said there have been complaints from would-be homebuyers that many new developments have HOAs, meaning those who want a new home in some communities have to accept the HOA - or buy an existing home in a development that does not have one.
"They just want the choice to live in an area without an HOA and live under those rules," she said.
She said there are many people "who are not fully aware of what HOAs do, or can do." And they are surprised to find out when suddenly they're being cited for violating some rule.
"Some people have called and said, 'We have too many people that have too much time on their hands,'" writing citations and imposing fines, Griffin said.
"We've had complaints about people parking along the street or even in their driveways," she said, as some HOAs don't allow vehicles to be parked outside a garage.
"Some get tickets when they leave their garbage can out too long or they put it out too early," Griffin continued. "Or they have clothes hanging on a clothesline out in the backyard that other people can see."
Griffin said if individuals have choices to buy homes in developments without HOAs that could eliminate what has been a pretty much perennial need of lawmakers to get involved in the fights between HOA boards and their members.
For example, it took state legislation more than a decade ago to rule that individual homeowners can fly the U.S. flag even if HOA rules prohibit flagpoles, followed by years of amendments expanding the list of flags allowed.
Lawmakers also have been asked to wade in to other restrictions on everything from "for sale" and political signs to whether a resident who works for a utility can leave his truck parked outside.