Strict rules are really common here, but I understand that it's not like that all over the country. Most of the rules are things I'm glad my neighbors aren't doing, like having cars up on blocks, not mowing often enough, etc. We even have a few funny ones, like not being able to have your garage door open unless you're actually coming or going.
You agree to the covenants in the neighborhood when you buy your house. The "ruling body" is homeowners, not the city or anything. In fact, I'm probably going to be on the board after our next election is finished.
The clothes line rule is really the only one that I don't like, but it's worth it since the neighborhoods without rules tend to not be very good neighborhoods. No one would say anything if I draped something over the back deck every once in a while or anything, but an actual clothes line is definitely out.