By Shu Bartholomew
Some people living in homeowners’ associations
tend to have an unhealthy preoccupation with their neighbors and feel compelled
to keep close tabs on them. Their justification for their officiousness
and intrusion is to protect property values by ensuring conformity and
uniformity. And so, having wrapped themselves in self righteousness,
they proceed to turn these artificially uniform enclaves into mini war
One such battlefield is Wyndham, an upscale
development in the Richmond, Virginia suburbs. The object currently
in the Wyndham association crosshairs happens to be the flagpole from which
the Oultons fly an American flag, a flag meant to honor the 604 men in
Richard’s battalion who were killed in action during the Viet Nam war.
And because of the high casualties they sustained in combat, the battalion
earned the nickname of “The Walking Dead”. The recipient of a Purple
Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon, Richard was awarded a Congressional Veteran
Commendation this past November for the honorable service he performed
while a member of the Armed Forces.
But alas, homeowners’ associations are
not known for their tolerance of patriots or flags, although the politically
correct ones insist it is not the flag they object to per se, and omit
any specific language relating to the flag.
Wyndham is no different.
As Richard tells it, being an attorney,
he read all 250 pages of The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions &
Restrictions prior to buying their house. Nothing he read caused
him to rethink the purchase he was about to make. Nowhere in the
“book of restrictions” were the words flag or flagpole to be found.
“I took the CC&Rs at their word”, he said.
law. He also dismissed the Oultons’
arguments claiming their defenses “complicated the case”. And, just
for good measure, Judge Harris changed his mind at the last minute and
denied them a trial by a jury of their peers. With no laws to protect
them, no jury to decide the facts in their case, and with none of the facts
“complicating the case”, the Oultons, predictably, lost.
This outraged and upset many people, including
members of the legislature who responded by unanimously voting in The Wyndham
Flag Bill. This statute basically provides that no homeowners association
can prohibit a homeowner from flying a flag unless they disclose it at
the time of sale. Despite the fact that the new law was enacted specifically
for the Wyndham flag case and was called the Wyndham Flag Law, the judge
ruled that the law did not apply to the Oultons’ case. He ignored
|"Visual Nuisance" ?
Click on Picture to see big version!
After their attempts to appeal to both
the Virginia and United States Supreme courts failed, they found themselves
back in Judge Harris’ court room. With no higher authority left to
turn to, the Oultons ultimately lost their battle. Judge Harris ordered
them to remove their flagpole and the flag by March 1, 2003 or to be prepared
to face the consequences.
Should the “consequences” include a stay
in the county jail, as Richard suspects, they’ll have to make arrangements
for their two small children. With no family in the area, they face
some pretty tough decisions. They also face the possibility of losing
the 6 month infant they are in the process of adopting.
At the base of the flagpole is an inscribed
bronze plaque that starts with a promise,” I will always fly these flags,
as “I owe it to my boys”, to my “Walking Dead Marines’”. Many of
the men in Richard’s battalion died in his arms, and by taking down the
flag he believes he would be betraying his men and betraying the ultimate
price they paid to protect our right to fly the flag.
While their fellow homeowners in Wyndham
do not object to the flagpole or the flag, and have signed petitions in
support of the Oultons, once the board started beating the drums of war,
and the attorneys got involved, the will of the members themselves seems
to matter not a whit.
To my Walking Dead Marines
Click on Picture to see big version!
Judge Harris rules that: The "Wyndham Flag
Law" does not apply to Wyndham.
In the January 2000 Virginia General
Assembly: Senator Bolling sponsored the Wyndham Flag Bill to make the developer
attempt to ban our American flag as a "Visual Nuisance" illegal.
The bill passed the 2000 General Assembly on a unanimous vote and was later
signed by Governor Gilmore and became "The Wyndham Flag Law."
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