Posted Thursday, July 25, 2002
to protest homeowners' association's flagpole ban
of The Naples Daily News
By MARCI ELLIOTT
A group of veterans in North Naples is
ready to fight another war.
Vietnam Veterans Chapter 706 plans to protest
a homeowners' association's ban of a flagpole in front of a couple's home
in the VillageWalk development.
"We're protesting the fact that there's
a homeowner here who's not being allowed to fly his American flag from
a portable flagpole," Ray Truelove, a Vietnam veteran and chapter member,
"It's about patriotism. We believe that
anyone, any citizen of this country, should be allowed to fly the American
flag in an appropriate manner anytime they want to," said Truelove, a VillageWalk
resident. "This is about the right of an American citizen to fly the national
The veterans plan to march for American
flag-flying rights beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the entrance to VillageWalk,
just west of Interstate 75 on the south side of Vanderbilt Beach Road.
The Gardners say the homeowners' association
is violating a new state law signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in April. The law
says any homeowner may display the U.S. flag and prohibits association
documents from placing restrictions upon its display.
The VillageWalk Homeowners Association
has asked residents Mary and Jeff Gardner to take down their 15-foot portable
flagpole, which they bought at a Naples sign shop for $130.
|Veterans' pro-flag demonstration
9:30 a.m. Saturday
Entrance to VillageWalk
West of I-75 on south side of
Vanderbilt Beach Road
The Gardners say they and many of their
supporters find it hard to believe the homeowners' association is so flagrantly
violating the law. The looked into the association's rules and found no
prohibition of any kind of flagpole before they bought theirs, they said.
The homeowners' association town manager,
David Beswick, sent a letter to the Gardners in March, shortly after their
flagpole went up, demanding they take it down. They complied, but put it
back up after Bush signed the flag-flying bill into law in April.
Beswick declined comment and the association's
attorney, Robert Samouce, couldn't be reached.
Mary Gardner said she and her husband plan
to be at Saturday's protest.
"Absolutely. We'll definitely be there,"
she said. "We've had slews of support from our neighborhood. We have young
families and older people — that's the beauty of it. We haven't had any
negative people at all."
Jeff Gardner, a retired trooper with the
Massachusetts state police and an Air Force veteran, said he didn't know
where the homeowners' association board members were coming from.
"We thank the governor and the Legislature
for passing the law," he said. "But (the association) is still arguing
the case. They're researching the definition of 'portable.' They're saying
they don't like the 15-foot flagpole."
Gardner said the aluminum flagpole comes
in four sections and pops into a plastic-lined, cement hole he put in the
ground for that purpose. In case of a hurricane or some other reason, he
can take it apart in a hurry. He even took it to association members to
show them what it looks like.
They didn't budge.
The Gardners' case is the second flag-banning
incident of its kind in the Naples area in the past month.
Pat Purnell of IslandWalk, a North Naples
development off Immokalee Road, came under fire from the homeowners' association
there for flying the U.S. Marine Corps flag beneath the American flag in
front of his home.
John Koprowski of Zephyrhills, Region IV
director of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said similar stories were
unfolding at other developments and communities throughout Florida.
"Some people try to bend the rule," Koprowski
said. "The governor specifically said the American flag can be displayed.
Patriotism right now is probably the highest it's ever been."
Koprowski said the only way to solve the
VillageWalk flagpole dilemma — and others like it — is for the homeowners'
association and residents to sit down and talk it out until they reach
an amicable agreement.
"It's not going to be resolved until they
do that," Koprowski said.
The Gardners say their flagpole will remain
in front of their house since they now have a state law protecting it —
regardless of the homeowners' association's objections.
"We want to resolve it," Jeff Gardner said.
"All we're trying to do is end this thing, because it's ludicrous. We have
the law on our side, and we're flying it."