Courtesy of the Star-Telegram
By ROBERT CADWALLADER
Sunday, June 2, 2002
MANSFIELD _ The spot where Kenneth Gross
planted his American flag more than four years ago has become a battleground.
The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag flaps on an 18-foot
aluminum pole next to his two-story home in the Oakview Estates subdivision,
near the northern edge of Mansfield. The three-member board of the Oakview
Homeowners Association has decided in recent months that the flag pole
violates the neighborhood's deed restrictions and should be removed.
Gross said the standoff will wind up in
court before he takes it down.
"I'm an American, and I think this is an appropriate
way to show my pride in my country," he said. "I'm just a regular guy,
but I don't know how you would explain to a veteran that he can't fly an
|Old Glory flying next to the home of
Kenneth Gross. A view every American should be proud of. But his association
board thinks different!
Although the deed restrictions don't specifically
mention flags or flag poles, an association board official said wall-mounted
flag poles are considered acceptable. But Gross sees nothing wrong with
free-standing flag poles, and he believes he has public sentiment on his
That may be particularly likely in the
wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which has sparked an emotional
resurgence in displaying the nation's flag and its colors. But sentiment
didn't translate into action when Gross asked the City Council to intervene
He was told the city does not get involved
in deed disputes.
Homeowners associations in Texas and around
the country are given broad powers to enforce covenants that in many neighborhoods
dictate in minute detail the appearance of properties and activities of
residents. Those can include controls on garage sales, how often grass
has to be cut, what materials can be used for fences and roofs and even
what ornaments can be placed in front yards.
Gross noted that the city of Las Vegas
adopted an ordinance in November that limits the ability to control how
flags are displayed. But Mansfield City Attorney Allen Taylor, who heads
a Fort Worth law firm that represents many Metroplex cities, said that
wouldn't fly in Texas.
"Texas law does not allow us to invalidate
a deed restriction by local government code," he said. "The states in those
areas have adopted an enabling act that gives the authority to do that.
Florida did earlier this year, partly because
of complaints about homeowners association restrictions that conflicted
with Gov. Jeb Bush's call for more flag flying.
However, a Marine veteran of Jupiter, Fla.,
still faces a court judgment and foreclosure on his home because of $30,000
in fines racked up in a flag-pole dispute with his homeowners association.
Realizing the difficulty in fighting homeowners
associations, some veterans groups urge compromise in what they see as
an increasing number of flag-conflict cases.
"As long as the flag is flown properly,
that's the only key," said Mike Palmquist, department adjutant of the American
Legion of Texas, which often works to resolve such cases. "We're for flying
The board of the 200-home Oakview subdivision
has recently offered a compromise _ a 10-point agreement that includes
allowing a 14-foot pole and limiting flag displays to daylight hours only.
But Gross objects to a requirement that
he agree to remove the pole upon a second violation of the terms.
"They're asking me to sign away all my
rights to appeal any decision they might make," said Gross, who said he
put up his flag pole long before the board was created in early 2001. "I
don't think they have any right to have a say on whether I can have a flag
Oakview residents Viola and Dan Brown,
who like other residents pay $440 a year in association dues, said their
request for permission to erect a flag pole was rejected in February. The
board said it wouldn't "fit in with the neighborhood."
Board President David Mahofski referred
most questions to the board-hired CMA management company of Southlake,
which could not be reached for comment over the weekend. But he said the
board is only enforcing covenants that residents agreed to when they bought
their homes. Residents also can change those covenants, he noted.
"Homeowners associations and deed restrictions
have proven to be a good thing," he said. "They have been shown to hold
higher retail values for their homes than neighborhoods without homeowners
But there can be trade-offs, including
individuality, said Allan Saxe, a political science professor at the University
of Texas at Arlington. He advises that anyone planning to move to a neighborhood
with a mandatory homeowners association read the deed restrictions carefully
"We think that because we have private
property we can do pretty much what we want with it," he said. "But that's