Parked patrol car violates bylaws, homeowners say

A Davie subdivision may sue one of its residents, a Miami Beach police officer,

over the patrol car parked in his driveway.


Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Published May 28, 2005

Some Broward residents see parked police cars in their neighborhood as silent protectors warding off would-be burglars.

But in Carlton Ranches, a 46-home subdivision in Davie, the homeowners' association sees a police car as an eyesore.

So the association's board is threatening to sue a neighborhood resident, a Miami Beach traffic homicide investigator Kevin Millan, over the police car parked in his driveway.

The board says the car is a ''commercial vehicle'' -- akin to a house-painter's truck or a taxicab.

The Carlton Ranches bylaws prohibit residents from parking commercial vehicles on their property, except in garages.

Randall K. Roger, an attorney for the homeowners' association, says under Davie codes, Millan's patrol car is commercial because it advertises a service.

''The board of directors is sympathetic to the needs of law enforcement officers, but it does not hold them above the law,'' Roger said.

The association has suggested that Millan park the car inside his garage.

But the Millans' attorney, F. Blane Carneal, contends that Florida traffic laws draw a clear line between emergency and commercial vehicles.

According to Carneal, Millan's garage is too narrow for the cruiser, and pulling out of the bay could cause delays when the traffic homicide investigator is called out on emergencies.

Nonsense, said Roger.

''We don't see the time involved in opening and closing a garage door to materially affect the job he performs for the citizens of Miami Beach,'' the lawyer said.

Jan Bergmann of Cybercitizens for Justice, a group that advocates for legislation protecting unit-owners' rights, said such nit-picky lawsuits can actually backfire -- hurting property values and giving subdivisions a bad name.

''I am not against regulations,'' said Bergmann. "But I am against stupidity and waste of money for stupid things.''

Carneal said the Millans proposed compromises to their homeowners' association, offering to conceal the police car's decals behind magnetic coverings, or concealing the car itself behind hedges or a privacy fence.

The homeowners' association sent a counter-offer to Millan: keep the car under a custom-fitted cover, and it can stay. The Millans have not formally responded, but Carneal said there's no deal.

Recently, the homeowners association passed a special assessment to pay for litigation costs. The Millans so far have paid $350 -- to help finance legal actions against themselves.

''They want to live in peace and harmony,'' said Carneal. ``They certainly don't want to have anyone spend money on attorney's fees.''

Elsewhere in Broward, residents welcome the presence of police cars parked overnight.

Hollywood police spokesman Carlos Negrón said the department has implemented a ''Take Home'' vehicle program for at least five years. The program allows officers to drive their patrol cars home and back to work, but they cannot use them as personal vehicles.

''The philosophy behind it is the neighborhood will feel safer knowing an officer lives there,'' Negrón said.

If Millan doesn't agree to cover his car, the next stop for him and his neighbors might be a courtroom, said Roger.

However, if Millan decides to propose an amendment to the community covenants that makes an exception for law enforcement vehicles, said Roger, association members may be willing to hear him out.