Illustration: Edwin Fotheringham
Piloting his plane over southeastern Massachusetts en route to Nantucket one day in 1993, Michael Reardon spotted his dream home. The two-story Cape Cod, with its wraparound porch and cedar-shake siding, was both spacious and quaint. Better yet, just a few hundreds yards from the lot sat a runway where he could land his single-engine Cessna. And because the Falmouth Air Park Homeowners Association — the resident-run group that governs the 160-acre neighborhood — was marketing the homes specifically to pilots, Reardon and his family would be living in a like-minded utopia.

At least that's what he thought at the time.

It didn't take long for his opinion to sour. The homeowner association, he claims, was a veritable Big Brother, going after residents for having the wrong lightposts, landscaping, wood siding, and driveway surfaces. Before long, Reardon began to feel as if, by agreeing to the association's bylaws — called "covenants, conditions, and restrictions," or CC&Rs — he'd signed away his rights. "This place is an aberration of American democracy," he says. "The association has become a de facto government. They judge and punish."

But it wasn't until the Reardons decided to move that things got really messy. The association informed Reardon that his prospective buyer, who was not a pilot, would have to build an airplane hangar on the lot. "She heard that and got spooked away."

Frustrated, he sued the association for interference with contract but lost. "The CC&R documents require the building of a hangar," says former association president Dave Shaw. "You sign them to show you agree." Now out $40,000 in legal fees and looking at building a hangar, at a cost of as much as $150,000, before he can sell the house, Reardon is more anxious than ever to leave. "We can't even stand seeing our neighbors anymore," he says.

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