Protester removes tank from driveway
Article Courtesy of News-Press.Com

 
By Wendy Fullerton, wfullerton@news-press.com
5/9/2002

A Fort Myers resident has moved the World War II tank he parked in his driveway to protest a neighborhood ban on pickups. 

“I got tired of looking at it myself,’’ said Brad Sanders, who moved the tank about a week ago after it spent a month in his Whiskey Creek driveway. 

His truck is still parked in the garage but now Sanders will focus his attention on getting the rules changed. 

Sanders had been parking his $40,000 pickup truck in his driveway until the homeowners association sent him a letter in March that he was violating the deed restrictions. 

He abided by the rules and parked his truck in the garage. Then he borrowed a friend’s World War II English armored vehicle and parked it in his driveway. 

At the time, he said, “By the time they’re done looking at the tank, they’re going to beg me to park my truck there.” 

They never said a word, Sanders said Tuesday, “which was kind of my point. 

“I can’t park a truck there but for a month I can park a tank and you can’t find anything wrong with it.’’ 

He plans to attend the next board meeting to start working on changes. 

Dan Black, in charge of deed restriction enforcement for the Whiskey Creek Civic Association, said residents thought the tank was just silliness on Sanders’ part. 

Black said restrictions can be amended if it’s what residents want. He doesn’t support a change to the truck ban. 

“There are some nice ones but there are also a lot of raggedy ones,’’ he said. “Basically, we’re just trying to keep the community nice.’’ 


 
Battle over association rules turns in uncivil war 
Weapons include lawsuits, attorneys, tanks
Article Courtesy of News-Press.Com 

 
By Wendy Fullerton, wfullerton@news-press.com
4/7/2002

Fort Myers resident Brad Sanders rolled out the heavy artillery — a World War II tank — in a fight over a neighborhood ban on pickup trucks in driveways. 

A Bonita Springs couple painted over a mural on their lanai wall to comply with their community association rules.


HEAVY FIGHT: Whiskey Creek 
resident Brad Sanders stands next to
a British Army armored vehicle he
has parked in front of his home.
MARC BEAUDIN/The News-Press
 

On Marco Island, a couple are suing their homeowners association board for libel and slander because of a fight over the color of their house. 

Disagreements happen every day among neighbors with more than 40 million Americans living in communities governed by homeowner associations. That number is on the rise as a majority of homes being built today are in communities with associations, particularly in Southwest Florida. 

Some of the disputes turn into full-blown courtroom battles.

There are boards nicknamed Neighborhood Nazis or Condo Commandos, with their Gestapo-like methods of enforcing rules that often lead to homeowner horror stories. 

But supporters argue they are simply trying to protect the value and quality of their neighborhoods. 

“The media often paints it as the big bad association picking on individual rights, but you have to keep in mind, when people buy into a deed restriction community, they are buying into a contract with all of their neighbors,” said attorney Joe Adams, who writes a column on associations for The News-Press. 

Adams’ firm, Becker and Poliakoff, represents about 750 homeowners associations in Lee and Collier counties. 

“These sometime become very costly battles over what you might call matters of principle,’’ he said. 

Protective measures 

Deed restrictions are legally binding rules that provide for building, maintaining and using homes in a neighborhood. They can control house colors, building heights, fences and other do’s and don’ts in the subdivision. 

People buy homes not just because of the house, but because of the neighborhood, Adams said. “For people who’ve made often the largest investment of their life, they have a right to have those expectations met.” 

In a Gallup Poll released in 1999, 75 percent of homeowners surveyed said their association rules are very or extremely appropriate for the community. Two-thirds said their community’s rules and restrictions are very or extremely well enforced. Only 7 percent found their community’s rule enforcement very or extremely unfair. 

Sanders, who paid $277,500 for his Whiskey Creek home — then made another $80,000 in improvements — understands the rules.

SNAPSHOT
On average, community association 
members are: 
 > 48 years old 
 > Earn $45,000 or more annually 
 > Live in a single-family home 
 > Have professional/managerial 
    occupations 
 > Have at least a college education 
 > More than half do not have a child
    whom is 18 years old or younger
    living at home
Source: Community Associations Institute
          BY THE NUMBERS
About 47 million people now live within
community associations.
 There are 231,000 community
associations in the United States. In
1965 there were 500. 
 Approximately 50 percent of all new
homes built in major metropolitan areas
fall within community associations. 
There are more than 20,000 condo
associations in the state of Florida and
more than a million condo units.
Homeowners associations are not
tracked because they are not regulated
by any state agency.
 The estimated resale value of all
community association units is $1.8 trillion.
Source: Community Associations Institute
 

He had parked a $40,000 truck in the driveway. Pickups are only allowed in garages. 

“I just think the deed restrictions should be revised to 2002, not 1970 when they were written,’’ he said. 

He saw the Ford Excursions, Chevrolet Suburbans, and other sport-utility vehicles — all classified as trucks — in other neighbors’ driveways. 

At the prompting of a letter from the association, he abided by the rules. Then he borrowed his friend’s World War II English tank. 

“These deed restrictions don’t say anything about tanks,’’ he said. “By the time they’re done looking at the tank, they’re going to beg me to park my truck there.’’ 

Democracy at work? 

Some people call community associations the most representative form of democracy, equating them to the New England town hall meetings. 

Residents elect neighbors to serve on the board of directors. And others serve on committees or perform other tasks as needed. 

Board members and committee members are volunteers. 

“It is the good-hearted souls that do it year after year,’’ Adams said. “Most of these people are retired business people.” 

Dan Black, the enforcer of the deed restrictions for the Whiskey Creek Civic Association, said it can be a daunting task. 

“It’s a thankless job I have, believe me,’’ he said. “There’s no vindictiveness, it’s just a fact.” 

“It doesn’t take long to really bring a neighborhood down,’’ Black said. “That’s all we’re trying to prevent, to keep it the nice neighborhood it’s been for the last 30 years.’’ 

“It’s very frustrating,’’ Black said, about trying to make people comply with the rules. Fortunately, he added, “You don’t have to do it often.’’ 

The tank matter has been turned over to attorneys. 

Attorneys got involved last month, when Jim Lundergan painted over the mural of the Italian coastline that graced the poolside wall of his $250,000 home in Bonita Springs. A lawsuit was threatened. 

The Lundergans said the mural was on the inside wall of their lanai, facing the pool, and was part of their living space. 

Spanish Wells homeowners association leaders disagreed. They said the mural graced an exterior wall and needed to be approved by the group’s architecture review board. 

“Ultimately, they did the right thing,’’ said Adams, whose firm represented the association. 

On Marco Island, John and Gail Schmidt are suing their homeowners association for libel and slander. 

And it’s all because they painted their Hideaway Beach house a bright pink. The association claims the color wasn’t approved by its board. 

“It’s been a nightmare,’’ John Schmidt said. 

They are seeking $15 million in civil damages, according to the suit filed in Collier circuit court. 

In a Feb. 18 letter to Schmidt, the committee's chairman threatened to wield his power. 

“If this deadline is ignored, the association will be forced to complete the approved package at your expense. This will include repainting your house the approved color and acquiring and installing the approved shutters and doors,” said John Solverson, chairman of the decorating committee. 

In the lawsuit, Schmidt alleges that he and his wife were “verbally attacked in an aggressive, confrontational style” at a neighborhood picnic. 

His home has become the focal point of the neighborhood, as dozens of people come by to see the house that’s creating so much controversy. 

“This is a classic case of a concentration of power in the hands of a few people,’’ he said. “This club needs a moral cleansing of its board. 

“I’ve been disgusted enough to want to move but I’m not going to give in to this juvenile behavior.’’ 

Adams said these examples are extreme but they happen. 

“By and large, the vast majority try to work out the problem before it comes to the point of friction.’’


 
              Author offers advise about associations 

All the craziness that happens in neighborhood associations prompted Joni Greenwalt, a Denver resident, to write :
“HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATIONS: A Nightmare or a Dream Come True?” 

“Through my personal experiences, I recognized that what starts out to be a small issue (something like Christmas lights or even a birdhouse) can become a gigantic issue costing homeowners thousands of dollars,’’ she said. “Some have even lost their homes. I learned how to put a quick stop to such tragedies in my community.” 

Greenwalt, 70, organized a coup d’etat in her neighborhood and got the association board removed. 

“It can make it a veritable concentration camp sometimes,’’ she said. “They aren’t all bad. You’re only an election away from getting a bad group in.’’ 

Now she’s a consultant for homeowners, and her book has sold 3,000 copies. 

— Wendy Fullerton 

For a copy of “HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATIONS: A Nightmare or a Dream Come True?” log on to Joni Greenwalt’s web site at homeownerassoc.com.

The price is $29.95.