Fine Lines: Or how I became a clothesline martyr | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Fine Lines: Or how I became a clothesline martyr

Almost three years ago, I heard a lecture by Mary Wood, a University of Oregon law professor. She talked about the narrow window of opportunity we had to respond to the devastating effects of greenhouse gases and the impact on the future of our planet. I had to do something.

While I knew full well it was against the rules on Awbrey Butte, I did not know the ramifications that the simple benign act of hanging a clothesline would create. I naively thought that others would clearly see the sensibility and understand that doing the right thing for all living things took precedence over following 25-year-old rules.

Living in the high desert with low humidity, things dry quickly with a wonderful fragrance not duplicated by chemically induced dryer sheets. The added benefit of taking the time, going outside, hearing, seeing, smelling, slowing down the pace of whatever we're busy running around doing, feeds the soul and gives the brain a break.

Some of my neighbors were not too supportive of my zero carbon, energy- conservation clothesline activities. I talked to my neighbors on multiple occasions, explaining why using a clothesline was so important to me. I wrote letters and I moved my clothesline to different locations, including the garage. I created a screening device to hide my laundry. This was met with picture-taking activity from a neighbor, as well as a suggestion that maybe I'd really like to live in the country. Brooks Resources (the keeper of the rules) told me the garage doors needed to be down. The country idea needed further consideration.

I submitted multiple letters to Brooks Resources, requesting they amend their outdated CC&Rs (covenant, conditions and restrictions), put clotheslines to a vote, or give me a mailing list of property owners so I could put it to a vote. All of these were denied. I was threatened with legal action if I continued hanging my clothes unscreened. I stopped hanging.

Soon, I found myself on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, with additional national and international attention, and I again felt somewhat secure from the legal threat. My clotheslines went back up. I was busy testifying for HB3090 in Salem, a bill that would override rules prohibiting the use of clotheslines. I sent President Obama a clothesline, requesting federal legislation to allow sustainable energy practices for all Americans (still waiting to hear back) and I contacted senators and representatives.

Meanwhile, property owners voted to turn the subdivision over to ABOA, Awbrey Butte Owners' Association. This means, property owners on the butte now pay $120 annually for the privilege of a whole new set of rules (in addition to the old ones), which include $20 fines for non-compliance activities... which brings me to my current situation.

I started receiving letters from Aperion, our new property management company for the butte, for hanging out my "unscreened clothes-drying apparatus." I was informed that "continuous acts of non-compliance will result in per-day fines of $20." Due to my passion for conserving energy and the benefits of line-dried clothes, I continued to hang clothes outdoors, occasionally.

I received several hand-delivered notices to our front door by Aperion, as well as mailed fine notices for each incident of defiance. I then moved my clothesline to the far end of our deck, with near total natural screening from the public streets, provided by our ponderosa pines. There was my neighbor, once again, taking fine pictures of the newly positioned clothesline. She smiles and waves at me as I returned her $20 "friendly" gesture. I scrupulously watched the front door for more fine notices. Nothing. I honestly thought my clothesline was now adequately screened.

On March 8, we received our homeowner annual statement with a suspicious "balance forward" of $994.50. I immediately called Aperion inquiring as to their obvious accounting error. Bingo, bango, we were being fined, with interest, without receiving any statements since September. I took down our clothesline.

As of now, my request to the board to have the charges dropped is pending "legal council." After almost three years of trying to go through proper channels to be allowed to conserve energy and decrease emissions, I continue to be baffled by the negative response by a limited few for something so rational and harmless (dryers rate second for home electrical energy consumption). I wonder, are clotheslines just one indication of a the whole of a bigger issue in our country resulting from lack of using common sense and reason?

In the ideal world, if I could have my way, we wouldn't have homeowner associations. We'd be talking with our neighbors and having "three cups of tea" (not taking pictures and tattling). We'd be doing everything we could to save the environment, even hanging a clothesline, because it's simply the right thing to do.

Hanging out and hoping to move to the country,

The Clothesline Lady

Susan Taylor is a Bend resident who has been fighting a prolonged battle with her Awbrey Butte homeowners' association that has drawn international attention. She usually airs only clean laundry.

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