residents fight bylaws,
say association is fostering racial bias
|Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
By Milton D. Carrero Galarza
Posted October 11 2003
Miramar · Dozens of residents in a predominantly black Miramar neighborhood are accusing their homeowners association of secretly implementing new bylaws that could be used to discriminate.
Outraged, more than 94 minority owners in the 173-home Franklin Farms community, located near Douglas Road and Miramar Boulevard, have formed a coalition to reverse the new rules, which forbid residents from giving, leasing or selling their homes without the association's approval.
There are five minorities on the nine-member board that approved the rules change.
While such reviews are not uncommon, the association must disclose its criteria for approval, said Gary Poliakoff, whose law firm specializes in real estate law. Race, nationality, religion or disability cannot be considered.
But the association's president, Nancy Holloway, has refused to disclose the criteria to the homeowners, saying it is a "private thing" determined on a case-by-case basis.
There are no interviews. Race is not part of the application, "but if you can tell what color they are by their name, that's fine and dandy," said Holloway, a community activist known for helping the disadvantaged.
Cecil Wray, a Jamaican-American who is vice president of the association, says the board has no specific criteria, just a goal to keep out people of "questionable character."
The lack of criteria worries the homeowners, who fear the board might not let them give their homes to family members or sell them to a minority buyer.
The new rules come as Miramar undergoes a dramatic demographic change. Once an Italian-American enclave, today 43 percent of its 95,921 residents are black; 30 percent are Hispanic. It is the only city in Broward County to have a Jamaican-American majority on its city commission. The city has the only neighborhood in Broward where 75 percent of residents don't speak English as a first language.
The controversy erupted about six weeks ago , when Marlene Campbell, a black police officer, was cited for putting up a "for sale" sign in front of her house. Campbell said she has seen other signs around the neighborhood and thought Holloway was singling her out.
Campbell began looking into the neighborhood's bylaws and discovered that the association not only could force her to remove the sign, it could also determine who she sold her home to.
When Campbell inquired, Holloway told her 98 percent of the residents had voted for the change. Disbelieving, Campbell knocked on her neighbors' doors, asking if they knew about the new rules. They did not. But they related to her instances in which they have thought Holloway made what they perceived as racist remarks to them.
The neighbors requested a list of those who voted in favor of the new rules but the board has not released it. Frustrated, the homeowners began collecting signatures asking the board to recall the amendment.
According to the association's lawyer, Randall Roger, the usual procedure for an amendment change requires the association to mail copies of the proposed change ahead of time. In this case, however, Holloway admits residents did not receive a copy of the amendment until it was passed.
She said mailing the proposal has proven ineffective in the past because most homeowners don't read the letters from the association.
In one of the first reviews held since the bylaws were changed, a black woman was denied her bid to buy a house. Michelle O'Neal, who has rented in the community for about a year without problems, said she was not told why her application was denied or the criteria used in making that decision.
O'Neal, a nail salon manager, disclosed in her application that 12 years ago, as a teenager, she was "charged with conspiracy to possess drugs" and put on five years probation.
"I didn't lie in my application," O'Neal said. "I did nothing wrong. There are people living here with more serious charges than that, but none of them are black."
Such allegations anger Holloway, who has lived in Franklin Farms since it was built. She insists her priority is keeping up property values in the neighborhood, where the 17-year-old homes sell for about $200,000. She regularly picks up trash from the sidewalks around the neighborhood and recently volunteered to paint the wall at the entrance to the community.
Beverly Adams, a black woman from Alabama who has known Holloway for seven years, agrees Holloway's motives are not racist.
"She deals with people in a very fair way, but she wants to make sure that the quality of the neighborhood doesn't go down," Adams said.
In fact, Holloway has made a reputation helping minorities.
For the past three years, she has raised money to help minority students attend Ivy League schools. She is best friends with Sallie Stephens, the first black woman elected to the Miramar city commission, and was one of the forces behind Stephens' mayoral campaign this year.
In addition, Holloway funds pregame meals for Miramar High School's football and marching band and organizes an annual Franklin Farms Thanksgiving meal for poor families.
Since the recall petition drive began, three board members have signed it. Board member Denise Glaser says that while she favors the amendment, she'd reconsider it if most residents sign.
Stephens, a retired teacher, says Holloway's intent is not to discriminate, although her words can come across as insulting.
Holloway bristles at the accusation of racial bias.
"Race in here has never been an issue," she says. "I don't see any difference and that's the way we grew up.
"My best friend is black. I can't wash that out of her, but I love her anyway."