BAXTER -- Sitting on Joan and Dale Roberts' back porch in White Sand Estates in Baxter, you can hear the birds chirping and playing in the large shade trees that are surrounded by thick, green grass.
"Peaceful" is a common word neighbors use to describe White Sand Estates, a planned unit development. The housing development of 30 lots of townhomes is one where neighbors are part of an association and they all live by the same rules. They call each other friends and a majority of them are 65 or older and travel south for the winters.
Joan Roberts said most of the neighbors have lived on a lake before moving to the planned unit development. The Robertses moved to the development about seven years ago after living on Gilbert Lake.
Joan Roberts, 68, said they decided to move into the planned unit development in Baxter because they wanted to get off the lake because it was getting to be too much work and she was not feeling well. She also said it was nice not to worry about their place while they were gone.
A typical planned unit development features townhomes where homeowners don't have much of a yard, but share a common green space. Neighbors are part of an association and residents sign an agreement before they move in. The agreement includes rules and regulations of the development and the services that are included in the monthly association fee, such as lawn mowing and snowplowing.
Roberts said part of their association fees includes garbage pickup and outside maintenance of the home. The homeowner is responsible for anything inside the home.
Roberts said the neighbors get together every Thursday for coffee and they have two potluck picnics each year.
"We've made good friends here," said Roberts. "If you see someone out on their back patio you can feel free to talk to them."
Dale Roberts, 69, said the neighbors watch out for each other. He said they will drive a neighbor to the doctor if needed. He also said they have monthly card clubs.
The Robertses' home has two bedrooms, two baths, a full basement and a three-season porch. They do not plan to move.
Dick and Marvella Larson, who are in their mid-70s, lived on White Sand Lake before moving to White Sand Estates five years ago. They wanted a place that was one level and maintenance-free.
"We love it here," said Dick. "We go to Florida in the winter and it is just one less thing to worry about.
"We have a nice, beautiful yard and it is so peaceful. We have nice neighbors and we get together once in awhile."
Dick said they also like to live in the planned unit development because it is close to city limits and it is between two lakes, White Sand and Whipple.
Marv Pelkey, 70, who is president of the association, said he and his wife, Elvera, 65, moved into the development in 2000 from Grand Rapids. They had a lot of upkeep at their old house and wanted to move. Their son worked on the townhomes in Baxter and told the Pelkeys about the planned unit development. They checked out the development and found out it was a nice area. They wanted to move to the Baxter area because they have family here.
Pelkey said he will only be president until Monday, when the association will have its annual meeting. There are seven board members and three officers.
A garden committee maintains the common green space and picks up sticks every week before the grass is mowed. Pelkey said everyone takes good care of the common space.
Pelkey said there are rules the residents must follow, such as association approval to plant a tree.
"They have control of the patio area, but they know what they can and can't do with the grass area in front of the patio," he said. "We're pretty relaxed on the rules, unless they are way out of line."
Pelkey said most neighbors believe the rules are needed and are beneficial to everyone.
"We haven't had any major problems," he said.
Dallas and Phyllis Young, who are in their upper 70s, moved to White Sand Estates about seven years ago. They wanted to move to a development designed for senior citizens, where they would not have to be responsible for mowing the lawn and shoveling snow from the driveway.
"We can come and go as we please and we know things will be taken care of," said Dallas. "Plus it is nice and quiet here."
Phyllis said the area also is nice because the development is in the center of a residential neighborhood so they can hear the children playing and laughing.
Dallas and Phyllis recommended the housing development to their friends, Roy and Lorraine Kopischke, who also live in one of the townhomes.
"We knew others here, too, and we wanted to get away from the lake because it was too much work," said Lorraine, 76. "We had so much mowing to do and now we don't have to do that."
Ray and Bethel Gadway, who are in their early 80s, moved to the development five years ago. They wanted to be closer to medical facilities and other city amenities.
"We were looking for an association place to move to," said Ray. "We wanted a maintenance-free home and yard. I cannot do heavy yard work anymore."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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