Light battle over, facts remain same

Article Courtesy of Houston Chronicle
May 18, 2002

THE GAS LIGHT is still on the corner. 

Houston homeowner Bruce Kyckelhahn, who was being sued over the location of his front yard light, said the Briargrove Park Property Owners association has dropped the lawsuit. 

Kyckelhahn, as you may recall from our original discussion a few weeks ago about his light legal hassle, is a CPA with experience in serving on a homeowners association board before moving a couple of years ago to a home he and his wife had built in the Briar Court subdivision within Briargrove Park. 

Kyckelhahn contends that his gas light complied "with the spirit and the letter" of the neighborhood association covenants that require homeowners to install the lights. 

What irreparable damage?
As mentioned in that earlier report, I paid a visit to Kyckelhahn's yard for a look-see and found his light location choice to my liking. It is precisely where I would pick to put it if faced with a similar decision, but personally, I'm glad my neighborhood doesn't require gas lights in yards. I prefer electric. 

However, the Briargrove Park association contended that Kyckelhahn's light is in the wrong spot and wanted it moved a few feet from the corner of his corner lot to a location more near the middle of his front yard, where it would be aligned with the gas lights in front of other homes on the street. 

The association failed to convince Kyckelhahn that he was wrong about where he put his light, and eventually he began to get letters from the association's lawyer, Rick Butler. Legal wheels began to turn. The lawsuit was filed. 

One court document claimed: "No amount of money can compensate the present and future owners of the lots within Briar Court Subdivision, for the harmful effect and irreparable damage caused by Defendant's conduct and actions." 

Remember, all we are talking about here is the location of a gas light. 

Damages sought by the association could have been as much as $200 for each day the light was not moved, plus attorneys' fees. Kyckelhahn estimated the total amount of the dispute was topping $140,000 by the time the two sides met to try to settle through mediation. 

Kyckelhahn said he is prohibited from discussing what went on in that meeting, but mediation efforts were unsuccessful. Kyckelhahn and his attorney were expecting to proceed to trial when they learned a few days ago that the association had dropped the lawsuit. 

Please keep in mind Kyckelhahn's past experience as board member of an association. He said he believes that associations can do much to preserve property values. However, the gas light dispute and aborted lawsuit have left him with some nagging questions. 

"What does this say about the case's merits to begin with?" he asks. 

He contends that the suit was flawed because a covenant had been misinterpreted and also because so many other homes in the neighborhood have lights that were not located by the same standards used in his case. Still other homes have no functioning lights, he said. 

Kyckelhahn said he plans to try to recover his legal expenses and is reviewing his legal options. 

The questions of an advocate
And he is wishing someone could shed some light on the ordeal. 

"Why did they sue us? What did they have against us?" he asks. "I would like someone on the board to explain it to me." 

One more time I remind you these questions are nagging at a man who has served on the board of a homeowners association. A man who believes that associations can be good for a neighborhood and the people who live in them. 

My efforts on Friday to speak with Butler about the dropped lawsuit were unsuccessful as of column-filing time. 

Please read : Association takes dim view on light