Riding in on an F-350 to slay the busybodies

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Daniel Ruth

Published April 2, 2010

It was a pitched battle as A.J. Vizzi faced an onslaught of fussbudgets, busybodies and, of course, the dreaded leviathan of paper pushers.

Oh, the David versus Gobbledygook of it all!

In 2001, Vizzi found himself cast as the Pretty Boy Floyd of fine print when he (perhaps this is a good time to remove any faint-hearted women and children from the room) had the reckless audacity to park his Ford F-350 in, of all places, his driveway.

Yes, he did. There. It had to be said.

Why in the time it took to say, "We are the knights who say ni," Vizzi's Eagles Master Association the homeowners' association leaped into action to demand their resident remove this foul object from public view.

Imagine the disgrace, the shame, the ill-repute the Eagles Master subdivisions in northwest Hillsborough were facing. One can only fathom the potential for scandal should an innocent visitor to Eagles Master, perhaps on the way to a contract bridge appointment, run the risk of passing by Vizzi's home and there, in full view, be exposed to the presence of a Ford F-350. Avert your eyes!

It didn't take long for the pinched Eagles Master homeowners' association to unleash the wrath of Aunt Bea on Vizzi as they thumped their rules, regulations and subparagraphs on the businessman, insisting, ordering and wailing that he remove his Ford F-350 from his driveway posthaste or sooner.

After all someone might see it! Ooooey-goooey!

At issue was the Eagles Master homeowners' association judgment that Vizzi was in blatant, reckless disregard of the group's mandate that pickup trucks are expressively, forever and irrevocably forbidden from showing their bumpers in the sainted view of the neighborhood.

Cue the "Law & Order Special Homeowner Association Unit" theme.

In short order, the hand-wringing homeowners' association started levying fines against the John Dillinger of driveways, even though Vizzi, who probably had a few ideas where the Eagles Master cluckers could park his truck, noted the vehicle wouldn't fit in his garage.

Yes, you are absolutely right. Enter the lawyers.

After years of back and forth between the glass company owner and the fretting HOA, and an additional six years of lawsuits altogether nine years Vizzi vs. Puckered Princes of Torts made its way through the legal system. The Bernie Madoff $13 billion Ponzi scheme case took less time to resolve in the courts. There are Guantanamo detainees who have been held in custody for fewer years. This legal brouhaha has spanned the administration of George W. Bush and well into Barack Obama's all over a cockamamie pickup truck.

In 2008, a circuit court ruled in favor of Vizzi's right to park a truck in his driveway. And more recently, the 2nd District Court of Appeal also ruled in favor of Vizzi. All together now Duh! As a result of the court decisions, the Eagles Master homeowner association is now on the hook to compensate Vizzi for $200,000 in legal fees expended to simply park his Ford F-350 on his private property.

I have a theory, which I've scribbled about in the past.

Quite simply, it is this: the United States will not fall and decline because of draconian recessions, or some invasion by a foreign power, or a plague of locusts, or some horrific natural disaster.

These real or imagined threats are but mere bagatelles compared to the foreboding menace posed by lanyard-wearing, kvetching keystone kops armed with their pocket protectors, their tape measures, their whistles, and their rule books, occupying their time measuring shrubbery, checking on the color of mailboxes or whether some real estate scofflaw has a pickup truck parked in his driveway.

Because the Eagles Master homeowners' association couldn't unwad their hoop skirts in the name of common sense, now the rest of the 1,130 residents of Orwell Estates may see their yearly dues used to pay off Vizzi's legal bills.

Just why anyone would want to live in some godforsaken subdivision home where one is under more surveillance than the FBI spying on a Michigan militia group of crackpots eludes me.

Over the course of his fight with the Eagles Master driveway Swiss Guards, Vizzi and his wife have attempted to sell their home, which only makes sense. After all, when you've become the Osama bin Laden of driveways, it probably doesn't make for particularly comfy neighborliness.

Alas, with a downer of a real estate market in recent years, they haven't had much luck in escaping from Potemkin Manor.

For the Vizzis' sake, one can only hope when they do find an eventual buyer the new resident comes equipped with that most important of all assets to please the Eagles Master homeowner association finger-waggers a Smart Car For Two.

Court sides with homeowner in dispute over pickup