FLYING "OLD GLORY" ?
THIS TIME IN TEXAS ?
We tried to contact the homeowners’ association. They're not expected to discuss the matter with us until later today.
By Barbara Fulenwider
A First Colony resident who wants to fly the American flag on a 20-foot pole in his front yard can’t because of FCCSA deed restrictions.
Ted Wilks was at Lowe’s home improvement store when he saw a residential flag kit and bought it. His flag pole went up Sept. 2 last year in front of his home in First Colony’s Meadow at Crescent Lakes subdivision. "I put it up about a week before 9/11." At the time, a brother-in-law was seriously ill in North Carolina. Wilks said, "I called my wife (who was with her brother) and said, ‘tell him to pull through. I’ve got a flag flying for him.’"
That brother-in-law, who was supervisor of a test facility for Harrier jet engines in North Carolina, did pull through but another brother-in-law didn’t. During his third tour in Vietnam he was killed, so Wilks’ flag flew for a short time in memory of that brother-in-law.
Wilks’ flag pole was permanently mounted in the ground. The pole is two inches in diameter and the 20-foot pole fits in a metal sleeve that comes in the kit. "The pole is all aluminum and the sleeve allows you can take it down to paint it or put new string on it so you can maintain it and keep it nice," Wilks said.
When he was notified by the First Colony Community Services Association (FCCSA) about his violating a deed restriction concerning decorative embellishments, Wilks took the pole down. "I’m going to comply but I’m also going to argue it."
He filed a modification application and on July 9 will meet with FCCSA’s modification committee. "They are going to discuss or review the restrictions on flag poles. They consider allowing them in back yards but I don’t want it in my back yard. I’m proud of it but I’ll work with them. I want to give them a chance to respond to all this. I’m not the only one who has this problem. I’m getting calls from people.
"What I’ve seen when I’ve gone on the Internet is the HOAs are like a quasi governmental system, and it’s very difficult to have them change regulations. I don’t know why they are so resistant to change but they seem to be.
"We’ve been in this house since 1994," said the chemical engineer, who moved to Sugar Land from Pennsylvania. "It’s one of the greatest places to live - fabulous schools and teachers - and I love the diversity here, for my children to grow up in this environment. My kids have no prejudices."
He also said that "since I put my flag pole up, other people on my street have put up flags on their houses and they keep their flags out all the time."
Wilks followed the letter of federal flag protocol. He said he changed his flag "every six months or so because I like it nice and bright and shiny" and it is lighted so he could fly it night and day. Prior to buying the residential flag pole kit, Wilks said he would hang the flag from trees in his front yard but thought that looked "tacky."
But tacky isn’t why there are deed restrictions concerning flag poles in First Colony front yards. Sandy Denton, executive director of FCCSA, said the thinking behind the restriction is that "in a residential environment, the standard way of flying a flag is off a house. You can take them down and put them up for each holiday." And she said that lighting a flag on a pole could potentially become a problem for neighbors if the light spills over into their property.
Wilks’ problem with flying a flag from a standard attached to his house is the exterior of his home is stucco and stone and a flag standard would damage the exterior. "Village Builders came out and said they were having problems with the composite system they put on my house and ‘we’re going to pay to take it all off.’
"So they replaced it all with a new system. It cost them between $40,000 and $50,000 to do that and they did a fabulous job. They painted the house afterwards and took care of all the landscaping but they said, ‘don’t put anything on it. Don’t penetrate the exterior of your house.’"
Trouble is that’s all the dead restriction allows. It says: "Decorative flags may be flown as desired provided they are displayed on the home appropriately. The American or Texas flags only may be displayed provided they are residential type flags and all proper ‘flag protocol’ is followed.
The only flag poles that can be used are those that attach to the house or are the small, temporary poles which can be stuck into the dirt. Permanent, in ground poles are not permitted on residential property."
Not all subdivisions in First Colony are regulated by FCCSA deed restrictions but most are. Denton said there are "just under 9,000 homes covered by the FCCSA deed restrictions. It’s based on when the original land parcels were bought and what restrictions were put in place by the developer."
She also said that in her 13 years with FCCSA the flag pole deed restriction "has been an issue maybe two or three times. One was during Dessert Storm and that homeowner was allowed to put the pole in the rear of his home. There was another after 9/11."
It has been in force since FCCSA was formed in 1982, Denton said. "We don’t prohibit the flying of a flag but in a residential area it has to come off the houses. In some places, people have been allowed to put the poles in their back yards. We certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from flying the flag."
She said FCCSA’s modification committee "will look at the options and evaluate what might work best for everybody."
Wilks thinks a residential flag pole in front yards will work just fine and especially now. "There’s a growing number of people who want to express the values of this country. There’s a group of values that citizens hold true, and freedom of expression, like this especially with the flag, is ingrained in most Americans. I think it’s a value we need at this time and will during the next few years."
He has complied with the deed restriction but he is a fighter and has fought and won other battles he’s waged to make changes in other cities he’s lived in. In his job, he’s traveled the world and believes there’s no better country in it than his own and no better way to show how he feels than by flying the American flag.