Saturday, January 8, 2011

Marine vet's 20-foot flagpole has HOA filing suit over a display of patriotism that stands taller than allowed

Petty Bureaucrats sit on HOAs (Home Owner Associations) and are the bane of a free society. The people who desire to serve on these types of boards are those who want to be able to inflict their views of what a community needs to be on their neighbors.

I fail to understand why people willingly buy property where others can order you on what you can or cannot do with your OWN HOME.

One of every five Americans lives under rules and regulations that could confiscate their homes from them, remove their right to privacy and take away their freedom of expression.

Neither Congress, the police nor local governments can do anything about it. Some people hate the situation. Others love the rules. Many homeowners, however, don't realize what rights they've signed away until it's too late.

They are people living their American Dreams inside a community regulated by a homeowners association (HOA), and corresponding covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that constitute a form of government that pleases some but is just a headache-inducing hassle for others.

"Fifty-five million Americans live in developments overseen by community associations," says consumer watchdog Ken Hyland. "Four out of five of those associations are doing well, but the other 20 per cent have problems."

The reason: The rules that govern private home developments are very difficult to change and are set up by developers who never live on the site and who disappear after a few years.

Well in this case, they got a fight from a US MARINE and all I can say is he is NOT the kind of person who will surrender willingly or without a fight...

SEMPER FI to you MARINE - Go kick some ARSE on these fools who hide behind petulant rules and try to make other's lives miserable.

Marine vet's 20-foot flagpole has homeowners association filing suit over a display of patriotism that stands taller than allowed
Jan. 7, 2011, 4:49AM
Marine veteran Michael Merola says he "just didn't buy" his neighborhood association's reasons why he couldn't put up his big flagpole.

A Marine Corps veteran is being sued by his Cypress-area homeowners association because the flagpole on which he flies the United States and Marine Corps flags does not meet his subdivision's design guidelines.

Mike Merola and his lawyer, Lee Thweatt, say this is a classic case of overreach by a nitpicking homeowners association. Lakeland Village Community Association says it is seeking to enforce its rules evenly on all residents.

Standing in his backyard in a black T-shirt bearing an eagle and the American flag, the 60-year-old Merola called that argument "a lame excuse." After his application to erect a 20-foot flagpole in his backyard was denied, he protested in a series of letters and, ultimately, erected the pole anyway.

"They just don't understand, unless they've been in the military, to feel the pride that I feel in flying that flag high and proud," said Merola, who served in the Marines from 1969 to 1977. "The excuses and things that they came up with for me not being able to fly that flagpole, I just didn't buy. That's why I bucked the system and put it up."

The association's lawyer, Nina Tran, said her clients encourage residents who wish to fly the flag to do so — as long as that flag is attached to a 6-foot pole mounted on a resident's home, as the bylaws stipulate.

Such an approach is "in keeping with the residential nature of the community," the board wrote in a statement. The suit alleges the pole is "a detriment to Lakeland Village and … (causes) imminent harm and irreparable injury to (the association)." The suit seeks a $10 fine for every day the pole stays standing, a court order to remove it and payment of attorneys' fees.

"The problem with a flagpole of that height and that significance is that it flaps in the wind and causes noise to other homeowners," Tran said. "If we allow the mounting of a 20-foot freestanding flagpole in the backyard, who's to say that the next person isn't going to mount it to the top of their roof? We have to have standards."

But Merola, who moved into the neighborhood in March 2009, bringing the flagpole from his former residence, said he's received only compliments from neighbors about the pole, whether from kids skateboarding by on the walking path behind his back fence or from neighbors who've stopped to investigate the source of all the gossip.

Neighbors don't mind
"I don't understand why the homeowners association overreacted like this," said Thweatt, Merola's lawyer, and a Marine himself. "I understand they have to protect the property values of the people in that subdivision, but they've had no complaints. It's not like the guy painted his house neon orange."

Merola's next-door neighbors, Satish and Ann Kalra, said the pole does not bother them.

"The homeowners association should look at the rules again," Satish Kalra said. "If the rules need to be modified, they should be modified. … That would be the logical thing to do."

Tran said even if Merola has not received complaints, another neighbor with a similar flagpole might.

Thweatt, who took the case pro bono, said he believes the suit violates the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which says, in part, that a homeowners association "may not adopt or enforce any policy … that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag."

No court date has been scheduled in the case.

"I hope we can come to some kind of agreement that will let me continue to fly the flag loud and proud for as long as I live," Merola said.

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