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Master of Urban Planning – Midterms and HOAs in Planning

Because I have not posted a blog entry into this series in a month, it might be presumed that I have been too busy managing graduate school and my business life with HOAs.  Those presumptions would be very accurate.  This week marks the beginning of the second half of my first semester in my Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program at the University of Colorado Denver.  It is incredibly relieving to me that this is the case because that means that I have less of a workload than I have gotten accustomed to for the next two weeks or so.  Things have calmed down following midterms and not only do I have time to write this piece, but that also means that I will be able to have some time for myself – something that was once common for me but now is more rare than a decent home-cooked meal; which I also have little time for.

While I have certainly found it difficult to manage all of my numerous commitments, I really cannot complain.  I was, after all, warned that graduate school would be more intense than my undergraduate career.  It definitely is, far more than I bargained for in all honesty, but this should have been predicted.  Though the week leading up to the midterm point was so stressful that I actually experienced cardiovascular discomfort, I am actually benefitting from the challenge.  I am finding myself more capable than ever at balancing numerous tasks at once and still being able to maintain a social life; which I had feared would completely dissipate in the presence of my workload.  I’m so good with the social factor, as it turns out, that my role as social chair has not been impeded in the face of tremendous pressure.  This past Friday I hosted an event for the entire CU College of Architecture and Planning and with great success!

As for the content of my studies, I am actually learning quite a bit about how homeowners associations fit into the larger urban planning picture.  At first, I wasn’t sure what kind of connection there might be because my home state of Rhode Island has so few HOAs that I had never even heard of them prior to moving to Denver.  From class discussions on Colorado state laws in regards to construction defects to talks that concern the level of county and municipal governance over HOAs, these associations so common in the American West have certainly been on the forefront of my mind and those of my university peers.  Together we have learned that any urban planning consideration in the Front Range must also consider the role and impact of homeowners associations; on a regional and local scale.  So many people live in HOAs that it would be incomplete – or even foolish – to not consider how these private entities tie into transportation, geophysical and cultural networks.  Following one law class where we discussed HOAs in unincorporated territory, such as what can be found with Highlands Ranch and Ken Caryl Ranch, I really got to thinking about how urban environments vary so much depending on where in the United States you are located.  When studying the core of the Providence, RI metropolitan area, HOAs are not a consideration.  Here, they are a dominant piece of the entire metropolitan residential landscape.  Fascinating.