Reserve Parking Battle Makes Chef's Dream Home Anything But


Article Courtesy of

Posted April 23, 2005


UPPER TAMPA BAY - Charles Knight's dream home is turning into a nightmare.

Two years ago, Knight moved into his $2 million home in The Reserve, a private community perched on the shores of Old Tampa Bay. The expansive waterfront property was the home Knight, a cookbook author and television chef, always wanted.

"I grew up in a trailer,'' Knight said. "I've worked very hard for everything I have.''

Now a parking battle is threatening to disrupt Knight's dream.

When Knight purchased his home in The Reserve, he got more than a private boat dock and a clear view of the Tampa skyline; he also automatically became a member of the homeowners association, which enforces the community's deed restrictions. Among the community rules is a restriction on parking that blocks sidewalks or is visible from the street.

With five cars for his wife, three grown children and himself, Knight's three-car garage was too small to comply with the association's parking rules. Knight asked his developer to design a three-car motor court next to his driveway. He also added landscaping to block the view of the motor court from the road.

"If you built your house specifically to accommodate the vehicle and it can be blocked from the street, I don't see the problem,'' Knight said.

But the association did see a problem. Knight said the association told him the landscaping didn't completely block the view of the cars and he was still in violation.

Knight told his children to park on the street instead, assuming the association couldn't restrict the use of common space.

"There are always things parked on the street anyway,'' said Knight, referring to the construction vehicles lining the street.

Again, the association said no. Because the association owns the road, it also controls its use. Knight said the association told him to park additional cars outside the development, about half a mile away.

"If they come up with a reasonable rule, we'll comply,'' Knight said.

Knight is one of four homeowners in The Reserve who have been cited by the association for motor court parking violations. Knight said he's facing selective harassment because he has used his parking issue to highlight the larger problem of unregulated homeowner groups.

"This is about the structure of the laws that govern homeowners associations,'' Knight said. "They're giving too much power to individuals.''

The Reserve's vice president did not respond to telephone calls, but Hillsborough County Neighborhood Coordinator Tony LaColla said the association isn't violating any rules.

Homeowner groups operate independently of state and local laws. Associations do have to register before forming, and deeds and restrictions don't need state or county approval. The lack of regulation also means different associations take different approaches to enforcing restrictions.

Lur Libreria moved into The Reserve from a deed-restricted community where the rules were rarely enforced. When she moved last year, she didn't read The Reserve's restrictions. "You're excited and you just sign,'' Libreria said.

Libreria has been cited for both landscaping and parking violations since moving into The Reserve. Knight and Libreria's situations are headed toward mediation, a process approved by the state legislature last year.

While Knight welcomes steps toward regulating the associations, he said mediation is not the answer.

"They've spent more money on legal fees for this mediation than if they had just let us park,'' Knight said.