Homeowners cop an elitist attitude over police cars


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Michael Mayo
Published June 5, 2005


After spending an afternoon on Hysteria Lane, also known as Carlton Drive, I remember why I've vowed never to live anywhere with a homeowners association.

Some people in the Carlton Ranches community in Davie obviously have way too much time on their hands and their noses too high in the air. This causes them to worry about the silliest things.

Like whether it's OK to have a police car parked in a driveway.

"I just scratch my head and say, `Is this for real?'" said Cathy Bucci, a real estate agent who has lived in the gated community for three years.

"We have a very peculiar association," said Giovanni Hernandez, an airline pilot who likes having his next-door neighbor's police car outside. "They say they're worried about the community lowering its standards, but the guy who used to be the association president is headed to federal prison."

That would be Jeff Barnhill, a former sports-apparel businessman convicted of bank fraud for his role in a $170 million scheme to defraud Espirito Santo Bank, but that's another story.

This story is about class friction, homeowner rights and restrictions, pettiness, ugliness, common courtesy and common sense.

"It's gotten personal," said Kevin Millan, a Miami Beach traffic homicide investigator whose take-home cruiser sparked this battle. He said at the last homeowners meeting, someone told his wife that his son would be ostracized growing up if the family stayed here. Millan's son is 6 months old.

"It's not personal, this is about enforcing rules and the bylaws as we understand them," said homeowners association vice president Mike Jones. "I have nothing against police officers. My grandfather was a police officer."

The situation has driven a wedge through this remote, 46-home development on the southern end of SW 136th Street, where homes sell for $500,000 to $800,000. Neighbors are pitted against neighbors. Friendships have been severed.

And now it's gotten to the point -- with lawyers, media attention and potential court battles -- where everyone is being a little hardheaded and unreasonable.

Millan says he has the right to park the police car in his driveway, because the restriction against "commercial vehicles" in the bylaws doesn't apply to public safety vehicles, a position backed by the Davie commission.

Some association board members wonder why Millan can't just put the cruiser in his three-car garage, where the third bay is being used for storage. He says the third bay is too cramped for the Crown Victoria, but he admits that it has become mainly a battle of principle.

It's a battle that has cost him $6,000 in legal fees, not to mention the $350 special assessment he had to pay the association to fund the fight against him.

Only in America.

If it was a Roto-Rooter truck, I could see the association making a big stink. But a police car?

Actually, two police cars. Besides Millan's, there's an Opa-locka cruiser parked in the driveway of Jeff Faulkner farther down Carlton Lane.

Me, I see a police car across the street from my Dania Beach home every night, and it makes me feel great.

My neighbor is a Miramar police sergeant, and I'm grateful his car is there to scare off potential troublemakers.

But here, some people see a police car and say, "There goes the neighborhood."

They try to sound serious when they say potential buyers get scared off looking at $750,000 houses when they see a couple of police cars sitting in driveways.

Jones said he heard one potential buyer say the police cruisers make it look like "a working-class neighborhood."

Oh, the humanity.

Millan and his wife, Regina, an immigration attorney and former Miami-Dade prosecutor, moved into their 3,300-square-foot house last July.

Faulkner, a former NFL player, has lived here since the subdivision was built a decade ago. He received a take-home car last August.

"Nobody's going to tell me where I can and can't park my car," said Faulkner.

He parked his cruiser in his garage when he needed association approval for a pool, but now keeps it outside in a show of solidarity with Millan.

"I think we've lost all perspective," Cathy Bucci said. "I just found out one of my relatives has breast cancer. We've got Iraq, we've got terrorism, and here we are, in these beautiful homes, all worked up about a police car. Personally, I don't know how somebody could find a vehicle offensive, especially when it's someone who risks their lives for us in their job. It's just sad."


Davie says officers have legal right to park patrol cars in driveways

Parked patrol car violates bylaws, homeowners say

Davie community tries to force police officer to park marked car in garage