Behind the gates on the freeways appealed to them. Now, they live in a yellow house with white trim on 2,500 square feet. And, since Robertson works in real estate, the CC&Rs were old news to him. "There's a definite level of conformity that they want to adhere to," he says. "That didn't surprise me at all. We weighed the options. Zachary is our fist child. For us, it was more exciting to spend time with him than to have to work on the house and the yard."
Still, Robertson acknowledges that he and his family have relinquished their privacy. "you're definitely 10 feet away from your neighbors. You have to like your neighbors. If you don't, you're in trouble." Luckily, the Robertsons enjoy the families next door. "Oh, they're great," he says. "Everybody bonded really quickly."
Privacy from all except the natural world drives Job's Peak Ranch, a gated community tucked in the pine and sagebrush beneath the peaks outside of South Lake Tahoe.
"This is what we're all about," says developer Cole Smith from his stance amid the sage. He throws his arms up toward Job's Peak, dramatically white-capped against a deep-blue sky. Birds flit through the trees, their chirps the main attraction in this otherwise quiet, natural preserve.
Only two houses grace the 1,080 acres of Job's Peak Ranch so far, but a lawyer, architect and retired venture capitalist, among others, have already purchased lots. The first incoming residents hail from California, New Jersey, Navada and New York, and while the current buyers represent the first wave of retireing Baby Boomers, Smith welcomes everyone. "This is a place for everybody," he says. "I don't think you have to be retired to enjoy a beautiful site."
Smith's goal is to create a neighborhood that co-exists with nature rather than dominates it. "I wanted to make sure we weren't disturbing any more than we had to," he says. "I don't want people coming in and tearing down sagebrush and clearing trees. I want them to leave it exactly as it is."
To help him achieve this goal, he developed the CC&Rs-but with a twist. "We removed all the restrictive language," he says. "We lay out this path for people to follow. We're not here to stand in the way of people's imagination." But, he adds, their ideas still pass through a review committee-and that committee disallows colonial, Spanish and plantation-style homes. "I will not allow the same house to go in here twice," Smith says. In terms of paint colors, Smith rejects them all. He prefers natural wood exteriors with transparent stains, slate roofs and plenty of glass and stone.
While an elaborate gate marks the beginning of the road to the 122 lots, which range in size from 2 to 17 acres, no sentinel guards it. "We don't have a gate guard," Smith says. "We don't want a gate guard."
With such a wide range of communities from which to choose, Vero Beach, Florida based-Marie Roberts seizes the opportunity to help buyers find what they want through the Internet. She and Lil Miller-Fox started RegistryOne in 1996. Their Web site (www.PrivateCommunities.com) shows the homes of 43 communities.
"They're buying the communities, not just the house," says Roberts, who has 20 years of real-estate experience, mostly with master-planned neighborhoods. "It's important to remember that many of these people have the wherewithal to buy wherever they want. So you really want them to be happy with the environment you're offering.
"It's not a product search so much as an environs search." Oftentimes, in the wide-open West, that's an easy sell.