I'd never been in a community with covenants, restrictions, etc. before I bought here outside Santa Fe in a small gated community with a Landowners' Association. But I did review the covenants and restrictions and bylaws for the corporation and the subdevelopment before I committed.
I have to say, this community is a moderate, reasonable, and desirable "vision" type of group of landowners. There are only a few pages of "rules" which actually ensure keeping this area natural, rural, attractive, and all in all, as a kind of place we have bought for the purpose of having this kind of atmosphere, surroundings, and assurances/property value protections.
I live in a 40 homes, 44 lots (2 of which have been sold and will be built on eventually as the owners retire)), and 2 on the market.) pretty upscale subdivision. The annual fees are $400, plus an additional $400 for eventual road resurfacing of the private road within the community proper (the roads outside are county maintained). Each home is individually designed and buil by the separate landowners, not a developer-built homogenous community/model home situation at all.
There are a few acres to each home, and the homes are all in the "pueblo" style common to Santa Fe (flat roofed, adobe-like homes if you know the style).
The covenants and my Association Board are reasonable and not Nazi-like compared to the association and its phone-book sized covenants of the neighboring subdevelopment near us. The general goal is to maintain a pleasant, similarly designed but individual southwest architecture style, with natural/native/drought tolerant landscaping plants (given that it's a high desert environment). Earth-tones, no glaring outdoor lights to interfere with night skies and neighbors' eyes, certain height restrictions and no visible "blights" like clotheslines, junk around houses, uscreened RV's parked at houses, unapproved architectural features added on that are not in keeping with the general desires and "look" of the southwest community we are (among hills, pinon pines and junipers, etc). This is what people who buy in my subdivision want and agree to -- if not, they need to go elsewhere to have total freedoms and also to have variable values of property, erratic zoning codes, multi-colored doors and wild house paints, dilapidated homes, lack of property maintenance etc. There are provisions in the covenants for liens for non-compliance. Luckily, these have been extremely rare.
We're covered by the covenants and bylaws/articles of incorporation for continuing to have a community with similar aesthetic values, security as much as electronic entry gates can offer, snow plowing service arranged by the Board as necessary in winter, general landscaping upkeep along the private road and the front entry area among the rocks, gate electronic maintenance, some attempts at social events, etc.. We do not have a community center, clubhouse, pool, horse paddocks, etc. But the community seems pretty content with the reasonable approach to things, handling inter-homeowner disagreements and issues, looking out for the common good, and not being police about minor details. That does happen in many HOA and condominium management situations, to my knowledge. Luckily we have a pretty good set of expectations and conditions, all of which seem to be acceptable -- otherwise people go elsewhere, I guess.
I became a Board member 2 years ago, decided it wasn't so onerous once the asshole family from Florida left this past December and moved into town (and I agreed to continue on the Board for another 3 years at that point, once they were no longer the tyranny of one in our community).