Article Courtesy of The
By Stephen Hudack
Published May 8, 2018
Even before lawyers for the Oviedo homeowners association got involved, Bob
Garick looked at the birdhouse-shaped Little Free Library box in the front yard
and asked his wife, Autumn, “Is this worth a fight?”
They decided it was after the board
governing the Bentley Woods neighborhood voted unanimously
last month to direct a lawyer to send the Garicks a
certified letter demanding they take down the box filled
with children’s books such as “Where the Wild Things Are,”
arguing the mini library is prohibited by association rules.
“Why is it a crime?” asked Sherry Hynoski, who lives in the
middle-class community south of State Road 434 and east of
State Road 417 and signed a petition asking the association
to let the book-lending box stay. “Who’s it hurting?”
The Bentley Woods Community Association lawyer’s letter,
which also demands $194.75 for “attorney fees and costs,”
contends covenants or rules were “created to help protect
and maintain the values of the properties within the
Association.” Lawyer Ryan Fong alleges the Garicks violated
a rule requiring homeowners to submit a “complete set of
plans and specifications for the proposed improvements”
before starting “construction.”
Bentley Woods Homeowners Association has demanded the Garick family
remove the Little Free Library from their yard.
The association tried a softer
approach earlier. On Dec. 1, Bentley Woods’ property manager Raymond Shrum
sent the Garicks a letter that began, “On behalf of the Association, we take
pleasure of saying ‘Thank you’ for having a Lending Library for the
The HOA in Bob and Autumn Garick's Oviedo
neighborhood sent this letter notifying the couple that their
request for a "little free library" was rejected. The letter
misspelled the word disapproved.
Shrum’s letter also asked the Garicks to mail in an
“architectural review” application for the library and offered them the
option of relocating the Little Free Library to association-owned property
near a pond and community bench. The Garicks aren’t interested in that
The box in dispute is part of the Little Free Library movement started in
2009 by a Wisconsin man who built a book-sharing nook shaped like a one-room
schoolhouse to honor his mother, a teacher. Since then, more than 60,000
have sprouted around the world — including several dozen in Central Florida
neighborhoods, according to littlefreelibrary.org, a website for a nonprofit
group created to promote community book exchanges.
As requested, Autumn Garick, who preferred to keep the little library at her
home, sent in the application typically required for building an addition,
adding a pool, installing a fence or repainting — all of which need the
Four days later, the association responded with a rejection letter informing
the Garicks that their request for the small mounted lending library at
their home had been “diapproved” without citing a reason.
“The Community is charged with the responsibility of preserving the
aesthetic appearance of the Community to help protect the value of the
homes. Occasionally, this means rejecting a Request for Approval,” the HOA
response explained. “Please do not get discouraged from making Requests in
Autumn Garick, who performs in area schools, libraries and festivals as a
storyteller, was heartbroken. She had nurtured a love of reading in her
daughters, one of whom, Sydney, will graduate this month from Yale
“Honestly, I thought how are they going to have trouble with this? It was
really small, about the size of a birdhouse,” Autumn Garick said of the
24-inch tall, 20-inch deep, 24-inch wide red cube. “It was about making
connections with people and doing something nice.”
Others in the well-kept community thought so, too.
About half of the 200-plus households signed a petition Garick carried
door-to-door that read, “I like the little library on Bentley Street. Please
let it stay.” As an added touch, she handed out book markers featuring
Linda Trocine, a real-estate agent and Bentley Woods resident for 25 years,
said the homeowner group can protect property values but vague rules and
selective nitpicking are why some prospective homebuyers don’t want to look
at houses in neighborhoods governed by an association.
While some residents believe relocating the Garicks’ lending library to
association property is a reasonable solution, Trocine said the group’s
proposed compromise seems illogical.
“If the problem is the box, why is the box OK if it’s on HOA [homeowners
association] property and, on her property, it’s not OK?”
The disagreement over the tiny library isn’t the Garicks’ first run-in with
the association in their 17 years in Bentley Woods.
About a year ago, a board member visited the couple’s home, hoping to
persuade the Garicks to take down a sign in their landscaping.
In all caps and multi-colored lettering, the sign reads: “In this house, we
believe: black lives matter; women’s rights are human rights; no human is
illegal; science is real; love is love; no matter your faith or ability
kindness is everything.”
The Garicks said their sign was no different — and about the same size as —
others allowed on lawns in the neighborhood promoting CrossLife Church.
They refused to remove it, and the association dropped the issue.
Last month, the Garicks replaced their original little library to a scaled
down birdhouse-shaped box near their sidewalk, hoping it would win approval.
But it didn’t matter to the homeowners association.
“I really love it. More importantly, my granddaughter really loves it,” said
Leo Gomez, who lives next door. “When they come to visit, she walks over and
starts pointing, pointing, pointing at the books. I don’t understand how it
can bother anybody.”