FLYING "OLD GLORY" ?
NOT IN TENNESSEE?
Posted 9 - 12 - 2002
The flag received a great deal of attention - both good and bad - over the past year.
Two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Michael Beckett of Franklin flew the American from a flagpole in his front yard.
Fieldstone Farms subdivision, where Beckett lives, said the flagpole violates the subdivision's rules.
According to Beckett, the subdivision's board of directors and the homeowner's association fined him. They also threatened to file a lawsuit unless he removed the 20-foot flagpole.
Beckett said he's upset about the decision but doesn't have the money to fight back.
"I can burn a flag in my front yard every day if I so choose but I have a homeowner's association that can take my house from me for flying a flag on a flagpole," Beckett said.
Beckett made the decision to take down the flag awhile back but said he wasn't going to do it before the one-year anniversary of September 11.
Articles below are Courtesy of "The Tennessean"
Feb. 20, 2002
FRANKLIN - A Fieldstone Farms homeowner says he will probably pursue a petition among his neighbors to remove a restriction in the subdivision covenants that forbids flagpoles like the one in his front yard.
That was one of three options given to him yesterday morning by the homeowners' association governing Williamson County's largest planned community.
But Michael Beckett admits that it will be difficult - practically impossible - to get the 1,500 signatures needed to ratify the "Master Covenants" in the 60 days he was been given following an appeal hearing before the association board on Monday night.
"This entire process has taken a lot of my time and the board's time and frankly, I don't think to properly and proudly fly the flag of the United States on your own property should take this much energy and time," he said.
Beckett put up a flagpole in front of his home on Greystone Drive just weeks after Sept. 11. But soon after he received a letter from the home owners association saying that flags can be displayed only on staffs anchored to the front of a house. The letter said he must remove the pole or face an escalating set of fines.
That's when Beckett began his fight.
John F. Beudoin, Home Owners Association president, delivered the board's decision in a letter to Beckett yesterday morning.
The letter noted that amending the covenants would require a petition with the signatures of homeowners representing 66 2/3% of Fieldstone Farms residences.
The board also gave Beckett the option of donating his flagpole to the association.
"We will erect the flagpole at our largest park, Lynwood Park, together with a plaque recognizing you as the donor in memory of the 9/11 episode.
"Choose neither of the above which will mean the Board will be forced to take the action necessary to comply with the Architectural Guidelines published and implemented by the developer approximately 10 years ago and the Master Covenants which were first established in 1988."
Beudoin's letter ended urging Beckett to consider running for one of two Fieldstone board positions that will be vacated in April.
Beckett said the incident had been frustrating to him, but he didn't want to give up the pole, which is lighted at night and planted with flowers at the base.
"I think it's a great idea to have a flagpole
in the park, and if the home owners board does indeed think it's a good
idea they should use home owners association funds and put a flagpole in
the park," he said. "As far as this flagpole goes, this is my flagpole.
I bought it, it's on my property and this entire debate is about whether
or not I can keep this flagpole on my property."
FRANKLIN - It will be today before a Fieldstone Farms man learns whether he can continue to fly the Stars and Stripes on a 20-foot flagpole in his front yard, in violation of homeowners association rules.
The homeowners association ended a meeting about 10 p.m. last night, after several hours of discussion, and told Michael Beckett it would e-mail him with its decision about 10 a.m. today.
ªI am disappointed that they didn't let me know tonight, but I am not surprised,º said Beckett, who was ordered to remove the pole at 240 Greystone Drive in December because it violates legally binding, restrictive association covenants. Beckett also was threatened with monthly fines until the pole is removed.
Beckett said he would mount a drive to try to get the signatures of two-thirds of the 2,200 homeowners in Fieldstone Farms in support of changing regulations that ban flagpoles mounted in the ground. Flagpoles are allowed to be attached to a house or on temporary posts.
If the signature drive is not successful, Beckett's next step would be to sue, but a protracted court case could cost thousands and, he said, run him the risk of losing his home.
Association board members say Beckett knew - or should have known - subdivision rules last April when he bought a house in the development off Hillsboro Road.
ªWe all honor the flag and honor the reasons for which it stands,º homeowners association President Jack Beaudoin told Beckett last night.
Beaudoin said flagpoles at former Fieldstone Farms model homes were not legal and had to come down and that a pole in the back yard of a home also had been removed since the controversy arose two months ago.
Beckett's main contention was that the Fieldstone Farms community wouldn't be hurt if the flag stayed put.
ªThe bottom line is, do you really believe that by forcing me to remove my flagpole, that this neighborhood will be a better place?º Beckett asked.
But board member Sue Bolenbaugh had a different
perspective: ªIf everybody had a pole up, honestly, I just don't think
it would look good. We just don't know it's something we'd like in our
Fieldstone Farms board to review ban on flagpole
By JIM EAST
FRANKLIN — An American flag on a 20-foot-tall pole has flown in the front yard of Michael Beckett's home since just after Sept. 11.
Tonight, Beckett will learn whether it can stay or must go.
The Fieldstone Farms Homeowners Association architectural control committee ordered Beckett to remove the pole at 240 Greystone Drive last December because it violates legally binding, restrictive association covenants. Beckett also was threatened with monthly fines until the pole is removed.
The 5 p.m. appeal before the association's board of directors at Hunters Bend Elementary School is Beckett's final one.
''If I lose, my only alternative is to remove the flagpole,'' he said Thursday.
''The next step would be in a court of law, and as a working man whose wife is a Williamson County public school teacher, I do not have the financial resources to fight this in court. Should I lose in court, I run the risk of losing my home because of homeowners association fines, coupled with legal fees.''
Association board members say Beckett knew — or should have known — subdivision rules last April when he bought a house in the 2,200-home development off Hillsboro Road.
And, they point out, the controversy is about the pole, not the American flag. Indeed, flags may be flown throughout Fieldstone Farms as long as they are attached to the house or on temporary poles.
''The issue is the flagpole and doing it 'my way,' not the American flag,'' association board member Jack Beaudoin said.
''He has a neighbor three doors down who has an American flag at least as large as his displayed on the front of his house, and no violation has been issued. His comment was he wanted to display the flag 'my way.' ''
Association board member Rob Hagan, an attorney, said he has the Stars and Stripes in his home.
''The flag that I display flew over the U.S. Capitol and, long ago, draped my grandfather's casket. Other board members proudly fly flags from their front porches or from smaller flagpoles, which comply with the covenants of our neighborhood.''
Hagan asks a larger question:
''Who is to determine which flag the homeowner chooses to fly? What if, for example, the homeowner chose to fly the Nazi flag from such a height? What about the flag of the Florida Gators?''
Beckett, who works in corporate communications, offers another perspective:
''We sit in our warm homes, eat warm meals and sleep in our warm beds, all the while there are brave American soldiers overseas sleeping on the cold ground, eating cold meals, no electricity, no showers, risking their lives and some even missing the births of their children.
''On September 11, thousands of innocent victims died in New York, Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania. These realities make this entire flagpole debate seem rather trivial.''
Jan. 16, 2002
FRANKLIN - Michael Beckett was so moved by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States that he erected a 20-foot pole in his front yard to proudly fly an American flag.
"I am protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, should I decide to burn a flag in my front yard every day - that's legal,'' Beckett said yesterday.
"I have no Constitutional protection to help me fly a flag from a flagpole on my own property. That seems wrong to me.''
Last month, the Fieldstone Farms Homeowners Association ordered the pole removed from Beckett's house at 240 Greystone Drive because it violates association covenants. The association also threatened Beckett with monthly fines.
Beckett, who works in corporate communications, said he is perplexed because a nearby house has a front-yard flagpole that is allowed because it is a former model home and therefore exempt.
"If flagpoles are so detrimental to the neighborhood, why would you put one in front of a model home?'' Beckett said. "That does not add up to me.''
Beckett was unaware of the rule when he moved there in April, but he said he does not blame Ghertner & Company, the property manager - it was following orders from the association's architectural control advisory committee.
Jenny Briggs of Ghertner & Company said that in no way was anyone from her office or from the homeowners association or architectural committee saying that an American flag could not be displayed.
"I printed on the front page of the homeowners' association newsletter last month the actual guidelines with regard to flying it correctly," she said. "It just cannot be flown from a 30-foot flagpole in the yards of 2,300 residents, according to our rules, which I agree to and enforce daily."
Beckett said he was notified last week that his Jan. 7 appeal to the architectural committee had been rejected. He will appeal that decision before the full homeowners board at its meeting next month.
Rob Hagan, an attorney who sits on the Fieldstone Farms board, said the covenants are legally binding contracts enforced to maintain aesthetics and property values.
"We stand by our efforts to enforce the covenants consistently and without exception," Hagan said in a written response to a letter published yesterday in the Williamson A.M. edition of The Tennessean. "Many homeowners are gratified by this approach. Others are not."
Neighbors of Beckett say they have no problem with the flagpole.
"I think in light of everything we've been through, it's an asset to the area," neighbor Jeff Parks said.
For six years, Beckett had a flagpole in his front yard when he lived in Brentwood's Concord Forest subdivision. He said he had no problems with it and has had no complaints from his Fieldstone Farms neighbors.
The association threatened to fine Beckett $50 for the first month the flagpole was up and double that levy for each additional month it does not come down.
"I did the calculation and it's two hundred four thousand and whatever dollars at the end of 12 months. The way they can collect that is to foreclose on my property, so I'm in a situation where as an American citizen, in order to properly and proudly display my American flag on a pole in front of my house, I run the risk of losing my house.