View From Here: Woman fined for clothesline

Bill Duncan<br>


For the Capital Press

When I first read the newspaper clipping sent to me by Jeri Kimmel, former mayor of Roseburg, who now lives in Bend, Ore., I had to reread it to make sure I understood the content.

The clipping was a guest column written by Susan Taylor for the Bend Bulletin about her four-year battle with the Awbrey Butte subdivision in Bend over her right to dry her clothes on an outdoor clothesline. Honest, folks, I don't make this stuff up.

Susan said in her guest column that in May 2007, she attended a lecture by Mary Wood, a University of Oregon law professor, who said there was a "narrow window to respond to the devastating effects of greenhouse gases and the impact that has on the future of the planet." Susan decided to do her part by using a clothesline outdoors to solar dry her clothes to conserve energy and decrease carbon emissions. To her it was just the right thing to do.

No sooner had the clothesline gone up than she received notice there was a 25-year-old subdivision covenant "that clothes drying apparatus shall be screened from view." She tried to comply by installing the clothesline inside the garage. She was then notified she'd have to close the garage door during drying, and was threatened with legal action if she did not comply.

She wrote to the homeowners association asking for a member vote on the issue.

Among the negative responses she received was a suggestion that she move to the country.

Her insistence on the right to solar dry clothes became news and in September 2007 the Wall Street Journal had a front-page story on the issue of the clothesline lady that resulted in national and even international news coverage.

Susan felt vindicated and her clothesline went back up. The fight escalated into a letter-writing campaign to city, state and even federal government pleading for her right to dry her clothes outdoors as the responsible thing to do whether in Bend, Ore., or Timbuktu. She even wrote President Obama a letter asking for federal legislation giving all Americans the right to use outdoor clotheslines in this green age.

Her solution was to "screen" the offensive clothesline on her back deck, naturally screening it from the public streets with ponderosa pines.

She had not received a notice of noncompliance since September 2009, so she assumed the new location met the requirement for clothesline screening.

She was wrong, the association had adopted a new rule that said there would be a $20 per day fine for noncompliance with the covenant rules. In March she got a bill for her homeowner association annual fee that included $994.50 in the accumulated fines plus interest.

She has protested the fines and the interest and said in her guest column she awaits a decision of the homeowner's association legal counsel.

Her closing remarks in the column ask what happened to using common sense and reason, noting that in an ideal world the environment would be top priority ... and we would not have homeowner associations. "We'd be talking to our neighbors, sharing cups of tea ... and we'd all be hanging a clothesline simply because it would the right thing to do."

Susan, it is not an ideal world and there is no common sense or reason, so even though I live in the country, I think I will rush out and get a clothesline in place to make sure I have one grandfathered in if Roseburg should decide it needs to ban clotheslines.

Even if it isn't an environmental issue, the very clean smell of sun dried clothes is an incentive enough not to leave a carbon footprint.

Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.

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