Re: Adopting Common Areas
From: Kay Argyle (
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 12:15:02 -0600 (MDT)
> Some members now want to "adopt" some of the common areas for their own
> use (Gardens, extensions of decks, Etc.)

An advantage of letting members adopt common areas is that then the
community doesn't have to pay for the landscaping (our community budget is
very tight), but that has its own repercussions.

Discuss this thoroughly, and consense on general (written!) guidelines.  Be
very clear where it is okay to do this, under what circumstances, what are
the respective responsibilities of the resident and the community, what
happens if the resident moves, who pays for what, who has ownership of what,
and any other complications you can think of.

For instance, at Wasatch Commons (SLC), we have an agreement that the area
next to your unit is your "yard," even though legally speaking it is common.
You decide what gets planted there, you buy the plants and care for them.
If you rip out what you planted and plant something else, that is your

Permanent structures are an exception -- you are supposed to do a formal
proposal to, for instance, extend your patio, and sign a lease for the land

The same understanding applies to beds in the community vegetable garden --
you pay for the lumber for the raised bed, you pay for the plants, you water
and weed them, you get the produce (a fair amount ends up at common meals or
under a "FREE TOMATOS" sign in the mail room).  The community does pay for
compost and water.

On the other hand, quite a number of residents got upset last fall when a
resident who had planted irises by the common house moved them.  The whole
incident got tangled up with some nasty community politics (not to mention
childish behavior).  It was the right time of year to move irises, and she
wasn't willing to leave them another year where they kept being damaged (a
brittle plant and a kids play area are not a good mix).  Another resident
had just joined the landscape committee, and nothing was to be planted
anywhere in common land until they were satisfied with the landscape plan
(which others had been working on for four years) -- so she put them in her
vegetable garden for the time being.

She had never been reimbursed for the irises.  Were they her irises because
she paid for them, or were they community irises because they were by the
common house?  And if they were community irises, who got to make decisions
about them?  The community as a whole, most of whom had shrugged over the
smashed foliage and broken flower?  Or the landscape committee (of which she
was a member), who presumably knew more about what was best for plants?  And
was a single (brand new and not very knowledgeable) member of the committee
permitted to overrule the rest -- in this case, to say that they could not
be moved?

The same actions by different people would have been viewed differently --
which is one reason you need written guidelines. Actions should be judged
for themselves, not by how many people like the person who did them.


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