Homeowners Decry Developer's Driveway Parking Ban



Article Courtesy of The Ledger

By Joy Cochran

Thursday, March 2, 2006


What's more American than a pickup in the driveway? Nothing, say some irate Lake Ashton homeowners who are up in arms over a subdivision rule that prohibits parking pickups in driveways.


They say the rule is down right un-American.

"I have a son in Iraq," said Patti Bell, a pickup proponent. "He's fighting for our freedom. That's why I need to fight for this."

Many residents considered the 650-home, gated community that features golf, bowling, swimming, tennis, a clubhouse and restaurant a retirement paradise.

That was until they learned that as of April 1, they can no longer park their pickups at home if they don't fit in

Mike Hampton boards his pickup in front of his Lake Ashton home. Hampton, who owns a welding business, says he is prepared to fight his gated community's developer if it enforces a rule that restricts outdoor parking of commercial vehicles at home. He'll risk a $100-per-day fine starting in April.

the garages. Many pickups are too big for the garages. The driveway rule does not apply to cars or SUVs.


After living there 21/2 years, Bell now plans to sell her Lake Ashton home and move.

"They're discriminating against pickup drivers," she said. "Next thing, they'll be telling you what you can wear."

Located west of U.S. 27 off Thompson Nursery Road, the Lake Ashton community was developed about four years ago by Larry Maxwell, a former majority owner of Cypress Gardens.

Maxwell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Mike Hampton and his wife operate a welding business and both drive pickups. In fact, the Hamptons custom built the garage on their home to accommodate one big pickup.

"They sold me my house and lengthened my driveway for my pickup truck," Hampton said. "That was a big investment."

For now, Hampton plans to 

A sign in a Mercedes-Benz expresses solidarity Wednesday with Lake Ashton homeowners protesting planned enforcement of a rule banning pickup owners in the Lake Wales gated housing development from parking their truck in their driveways.

continue parking in his driveway and risk being fined $100 a day for violating the pickup parking rule.

"My attorney assures me I have a case," Hampton said. "If (Maxwell) wants to play, I'll be more than happy to play. He may have more money than me, but he doesn't have a leg to stand on."


In the community's master covenants, filed with the Polk County Clerk of the Courts on Feb. 15, 2002, under a section headed "trucks, commercial vehicles, recreational vehicles . . .", reads "no commercial vehicle of any kind shall be parked in the community, . . ." However, pickups are not addressed specifically.

The "developer until it owns no lots in the community, and thereafter the (homeowners) association, reserves the right to enact rules that would prohibit the parking of any vehicle, other than a golf cart, in a living unit's driveway other than on a temporary basis," the covenants continue.

As the first phase of the development nears completion, the parking rule has not been widely enforced and only became an issue recently.

"In preparation for the residents' taking over the homeowners association responsibilities, we went to the developer and requested clarification of some of the covenants because we were going to be responsible for policing them," said resident Sonny Robinson. "The word `trucks' was used and we asked him what he meant by trucks. He said he meant pickup trucks -- anything with an open bed."

Robinson is a member of a community liaison committee that will continue to meet for up to 90 days until a board is elected for the new homeowners group.

"The developer put it in the covenants that he did not want boats, campers, derelict cars, trucks -- anything that would make the community look bad," Robinson said. "You can see how nice the community looks. He wants to maintain that look. The covenants cover all aesthetics of the community."

Houses in the development sell for $200,000 and up.

Robinson said he sold his pickup a few years ago when he was notified that trucks were not allowed in the community.

Since Robinson was notified, the no-truck rule has not been enforced, and that's not fair, other residents say.

A petition seeking to revoke the pickup rule has been signed by 280 residents. About 200 residents turned out for a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue.

"I asked when I bought my home if I could have a pickup truck, and they said it was OK as long as it didn't have writing on it," said Bob Hoffman, who moved to Lake Ashton 14 months ago, but now plans to sell and move. "We're afraid it's not going to stop with this. Before you know it, they'll be saying you can't have a vehicle that's more than three years old, or you can't have a motorcycle."

A compromise, proposed by Bill Gabler, a former member of the liaison committee, calls for allowing pickups in driveways of homes purchased before Dec. 31, 2005.

The compromise has been presented to the "truckers," Robinson said.

"We told them we were willing to try come up with an agreement that was acceptable to both sides," he said. "We've left it at that. We have not heard back from them."