Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ruining the Investment of the Homeowner . . . and the Community

Yesterday morning many of the viburnum shrubs that we have taken care of for over ten years were butchered by workers from Brickman, Princeton Landing's landscape contractor. By the time we realized what was happening, it was too late. Crew members had already hacked up the plants on the berm next to our home. The frustration and anger that ensued is probably not unfamiliar to many Princeton Landing homeowners who care about their homes. Yet pruning like this goes on year after year.

The workers were apparently carrying out a work ticket issued by the Loop Road Committee. Just to be clear, the shrubs are not even in the Loop Road Committee's jurisdiction. In fact, these shrubs had just been mulched using funds from the Parcel 6 landscape budget and were originally purchased by us and by Parcel 6.

There are many homes in Princeton Landing located along the Loop Road. In order to maintain privacy, homeowners like us have elected to put in plantings at their own expense, with their Parcel's permission. In our case we not only put in many of the plants, but we feed, water—yes, that's us up there watering during the summer—and prune these shrubs, even though the Association is supposed to maintain the landscape. But the truth is the community doesn't take care of the plantings. Plants that aren't tended by homeowners die every summer because they aren't watered. In the past, the community wasted funds replacing plants that died each year because of our own neglect. Now we simply don't replace them. So homeowners who care about their surroundings must take it upon themselves to put in new plantings.

It makes financial—and aesthetic—sense for a large community like ours to rely on the homeowners who are willing to take some responsibility for the property around their homes. But what could be more frustrating than spending all year caring for plants only to have Brickman—responding to a work ticket issued by a Committee that doesn't know what it's setting in motion—hack your plants and set their growth back several years, which even Brickman admits is the case. Frustration. Aggravation. And it's all unnecessary.

Who is responsible? Is it the Association for allowing this to happen? Is it our management company for not supervising the work properly? Or is it the homeowners who care a lot about what the property looks like around their homes? Some might say that this is the deal we signed up for when we moved to Princeton Landing. But who could know what combination of incompetence and neglect would transpire as time went on. Are we not supposed to care about what our community looks like and simply leave it up to the management company? If the answer is yes, that's probably something we all need to know. Then we can ask what it is that we're paying for every month.