Not a fan of HOAs, but they do have their place. We previously lived in a neighborhood w/out one, but when we had our daughter 3 yrs ago, we moved into our current neighborhood because of the amazing school system. Our HOA is really flexible w/ normal rules regarding lawn care, farm animals, painting your house bright pink, etc... Our HOA dues cover neighborhood landscaping, snow removal, garbage and recycle pickup and for the pool and rec area. With the money, the HOA puts on several fun parties at the pool and lots of entertainment and functions for the kids such as carnivals, petting zoos, outdoor movies at the park and even a few parades. So far, we feel we get a lot more out of our HOA than someone just telling us what to do and what not to do.
Then again, once my daughter is off to college, we'll find us a little spot up in the mountains where I can shoot my guns, put up a hops farm, grow a large garden, have multiple animals running around and not even see our neighbors!