A red diamond in a driveway? West Boynton homeowner, HOA in bitter 3-year lawsuit battle

Article Courtesy of  Palm Beach Post

By Mike Diamond

Published August 20, 2020


For more than three years, the Equus HOA in suburban Boynton Beach has been trying to get Barry Rosenthal to remove the diamond because it is ‘not a good fit’ for Equus.

Realtors describe the 280-unit Equus development west of Boynton Beach as “a magnificent enclave of luxury estate homes with an equestrian flair.” Sixty-five hundred square foot residences often sell for more than $1 million.

But the “idyllic, gated sanctuary” is not so idyllic these days as the tony community has been embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with one of its residents that shows no signs of ending. At issue at Equus is just how far a homeowner can go to change the way his property looks. For Barry Rosenthal, it is not very far.

He liked the idea of a large red-shaped diamond on his driveway entrance. The homeowner association board: Not so much.

The issue of property and an individual’s right to privacy or home aesthetics routinely pops up in South Florida communities. For some, a heightened sense of scrutiny - whether it is driveways, back porches, security cameras or Christmas decorations - often becomes a heated and legal issue between boards and residents.

In this case, HOA has been trying to get Rosenthal, a former member of the HOA, to remove the diamond for three years because it is not a good fit for Equus. The HOA claims “it was not in conformity with other approved driveway designs throughout the community.”

Rosenthal put in the red diamond in June 2017 without obtaining HOA approval. He was cited by the HOA in August. He has been fined $1,000. He no longer is allowed to use the amenities at Equus, which include tennis courts and a fitness center. The HOA sued Rosenthal in June 2018. There have been two separate efforts at mediation. The most recent effort was in March.

For more than three years, the Equus HOA has been trying to get Barry Rosenthal to remove a red diamond on his driveway because it is not a good fit for Equus. The HOA claims 'it was not in conformity with other approved driveway designs throughout the community.'

On March 20, the mediator reported: “The parties did not reach an agreement as to any matter as a result of the mediation.”

“You could say we are at an impasse,” said Peter Sosin of Boca Raton, the attorney who represents the HOA. “Rosenthal could have repaved his entire driveway three times over with the amount of money he has paid his attorney in legal fees.”

Meanwhile, Rosenthal said this is “all about selective enforcement.”

He claims another resident has almost his entire driveway paved over with bigger diamonds than he has and the HOA has done nothing to that homeowner.

“There are a lot of cliques here and if you are in the right clique, you get a free pass,” Rosenthal said. “An arbitrator told us at mediation that he never saw such selective enforcement.”

Rosenthal questioned how the board can deny him the use of the facilities when he has been paying his $6,000-a-year dues for the past three years. And the HOA will not allow him to vote, he said.

“This is wrong,” he said. “We have not yet had a trial. I can’t wait to get to court.”

Efforts to obtain comment from the Equus HOA were unsuccessful.

But sources say that friction between Rosenthal and some residents have become so tense that PBSO officers have responded to calls alleging that Rosenthal harassed them.

Rosenthal confirmed that he had to answer to police responses but said he has been charged with anything.

“I took pictures of cars blocking driveways and cars parked on the wrong side of the street,” he said. “Some people did not like it. They called the police. I did nothing wrong.”

Meanwhile, Sosin said Rosenthal knew what the rules and regulations were. He needed to get HOA approval before he put his red-shaped diamond in. He chose not do it and he won’t remove it, Sosin noted.

If the case is not settled, the HOA and Rosenthal had better brace themselves. Whoever prevails at trial will most likely recover their legal fees, which could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.