Odessa truck owner beats Eagles Master Association lawsuit

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Kevin Graham

Published December 16, 2008

TAMPA The Ford F-350 pickup truck is champagne in color, and A.J. Vizzi says he couldn't fit it in his garage if he tried.

But his homeowners association insisted he do just that.

"They just didn't care," Vizzi said Monday. "They said get rid of it or else."

At least 80 times, he said, the Eagles Master Association sent notices threatening a $100 fine for violating a deed restriction that prohibits parking pickup trucks in driveways in his gated community in Odessa.

But on Friday, a Hillsborough judge sided with Vizzi, calling it "utterly unreasonable" to create such an exclusion, his attorney said.

"All along I thought I was in the right," said Vizzi, 48. "That's the only reason I went as far as answering their lawsuit against me."

Two years ago, the Eagles sued A.J. and Doree Vizzi, claiming they violated a provision governing homes within the community. The Vizzis said that when they purchased their home in the Eagles' Windsor Park Village, the builder said their subcommunity was exempt from the truck restriction.

An attorney for the Eagles Master Association couldn't be reached late Monday.

Daniel Anderson, the Vizzis' attorney, said other residents in the community have paid fines. It was unclear Monday whether Hillsborough Circuit Judge Martha Cook's ruling could mean a reversal in those fines. Vizzi said he never paid a dime.

The Vizzis purchased their $346,900 home in 1997. Since then, A.J. Vizzi has owned three pickup trucks, he said. The neighborhood association first notified him of a violation in 2001. A lawsuit didn't come until after Vizzi purchased his 2004 F-350, which he said he uses to tow his family's 40-foot camper.

Aware of the prohibition on pickup trucks affecting other villages within the Eagles, Vizzi said he custom-ordered single rear wheels for his diesel truck, instead of dual wheels which typically come on a truck that size. He said he also eliminated any clearance lights.

"I wanted it to look like a passenger vehicle so it would blend in with the neighborhood," Vizzi said.

He accused the Eagles of selectively enforcing the deed restriction. In some instances, Vizzi said, SUV owners received clearance to park their vehicles in their driveways, even though the state Department of Motor Vehicles may have classified the automobiles as trucks.

Now, Vizzi says, his neighbors will be forced to pay legal fees for a fight over something he describes as "so trivial."

"They could have used that money to buy a park," he said. "They've been promising the community that for years."