Estero truck owner's tickets pile up

Article Courtesy of The NEWS PRESS

By Christina Cepero

Published March 22, 2010


An Estero man feels like he's in the movie "Groundhog Day" when he wakes up every day to find a $25 ticket on his truck's windshield.


So far, the Stoneybrook master association patrol has slapped James W. Sauerwald with about 47 tickets, which totals $1,175, for parking a commercial vehicle in his driveway.


Lee County homeowners' struggle to follow association rules is an unusual byproduct of an economy that has caused double-digit unemployment and home foreclosures.

The golf course community's documents state no commercial vehicles can be parked on the property other than service trucks temporarily there on business.

"We feel like we're getting harassed," said James Sauerwald's wife, Jolie. "They're basically pushing us out of the subdivision."

James Sauerwald parks his work truck in the driveway of his Stoneybrook home in Estero.

Property manager Alexandra Burgher said the rule has been in place since the gated community's inception.

"Ninety-nine percent of the communities have that in their bylaws," Burgher said. "When someone purchases into the community, they are aware that there is a set of rules."

James Sauerwald, 53, an eight-year resident, believes the association should grant him a six-month hardship waiver.

"There are times that you need to bend a little so that people can survive," he said. "The board is not acknowledging the extremely tough times of the construction business."

The Sauerwalds own a small construction business in Naples that's recently downsized from 40 employees to eight.

James Sauerwald said he can only afford one vehicle and he needs the truck because he's out of the office on projects now.

The truck, which has a ladder, doesn't fit in his garage. It doesn't have the business's name on it.

"What would they like me to do? Park it on the outside of Stoneybrook and walk to my house?" he said.

Burgher said the board does not have the leverage to issue a waiver.

"If the board were to have an exception for one, they would have to allow everyone to park their commercial vehicle there," Burgher said.

James Sauerwald has received numerous citations for parking his work truck in his driveway.


"I think that's the No. 1 reason people move into communities. So they don't live in a place where you have trucks parked or commercial vehicles with ladder racks or debris living next to you."


She said the office has gotten complaints about the truck.

"It irritates me to death when people don't follow the rules," said Carol Radde, 66, a seven-year Stoneybrook resident.

"If you can't abide by those rules, then you shouldn't be living in a restricted community."

Burgher said others in the community also have been ticketed for their commercial vehicles.

The Sauerwalds' truck has not bothered Les Gurdin, 67, who lives on the same street.

"I've seen pickups and cars in driveways, nothing of a commercial nature," he said.

The Sauerwalds refuse to pay the tickets.

Burgher said the board could attempt to collect the money in small claims court.

About 60 of Stoneybrook's 1,119 homes, or 5 percent, are in foreclosure, according to real estate agent Jack Mancini.

"They need to be flexible with the ones who are paying their dues and trying to make a living and not foreclose on their home," said Jolie Sauerwald, 48.

"We're to the point where why should we even try and save our home if they're not going to let up on us."