What happens when resident vs. homeowners association? Ave Maria homeowner finds out

Article Courtesy of The Naples Daily News

By Greg Stanley    

Published April 13, 2016


A handful of neighbors start rolling up Wilson Ospina's driveway each day in the late afternoon, after work lets out.

Some arrive by foot, others by minivan. Silently they get to work, pulling out rowing machines from Ospina's two car garage — a garage that's been turned into the dream weight room of the soft-spoken retired Navy corpsman, neatly organized with kettle bells, free weights, pullup bars and charts.

For the last three months Ospina has been organizing intense one-hour workouts out of his garage for his neighbors in Maple Ridge, one of the largest and fastest growing communities in Ave Maria.

Then the homeowners association told him to stop.

In late March, Miami Management Inc., which runs the homeowners association on behalf of the development, threatened to sue Ospina if he continued to host the workouts, pointing to covenant agreements that are so common among neighborhoods and communities in the Naples area.

The broad violation Ospina was accused of violating could be found in any number of HOA agreements in the area: "No owner shall make or permit any loud and/or disturbing noises of a continuing nature, nor any practice that is the source of annoyance to residents."

But the workouts never get louder than the occasional grunts and heavy breathing, Ospina said. The only annoyance seems to be the sight of a group of adults exercising on a driveway, he said.

Wilson Ospina, right, assists Victor Velasquez, 18, during a daily CrossFit workout with neighbors in his Ave Maria home on Monday, April 5, 2016. Ospina has been hosting group CrossFit workouts in his home since January.

"It just seems very absurd," Ospina said. "Am I not able to workout in my own garage? What are they shutting down, a group of neighbors gathering?"

Ospina runs three workouts daily, one at 6 a.m., and again around 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. The size of the groups range from two to eight people.

Ospina, 34, retired young from the Navy because of a head injury. He's a Naples High School graduate and served in Iraq and Afghanistan working as a combat medic among other duties. He was in charge of leading the physical training of his platoon for a stint and took to it.

When Ospina returned to Florida he used the GI Bill to study community health at Florida Gulf Coast University and plans to become a full-time trainer. Within the next 6 to 7 months he and a partner will open Ave Maria's first CrossFit gym, an increasingly popular fitness program that blends a number of different disciplines like rowing, lifting and running.

But he and friends will always work out in his own home, he said.

"This is huge for me," Ospina said. "I've been at war pretty much since I was 20. This is my purpose now. It helps people. It gets them to have an active lifestyle. With all of our problems with high blood pressure and diabetes, well this does something about it. If this bothers people, then so be it."

The first HOA complaint came in a February email from Miami Management, asking that he stop playing music from his garage during the workouts. Ospina killed the radio, thinking it would settle matters.

A few weeks later he received another complaint saying that he was operating a business at his home, a violation of the HOA agreements and county codes. But the workouts are free. No money is changing hands and there's no added traffic to the street since everyone lives in the neighborhood, Ospina said.

It's like having a pickup basketball game in the driveway, open to anyone who wants to walk over, he said.

But the bottom line is the activity is bothering people, Miami Management representatives told Ospina.

When he asked what decibel level of noise he was allowed to make in his home, one manager from the HOA responded in an email, "The decibel is whatever annoys or creates a nuisance for the neighbors."

"So if a neighbor is annoyed by blue shirts, am I not allowed to wear a blue shirt on my driveway?" Ospina said. "Are they going to dictate what pace I can run on the sidewalk?"

Eric Jacques, who lives a few doors down from Ospina, has been working out with him since January.

"Wilson is an absolute asset," Jacques said. "I moved here because it's a younger community where families can get together like this. I would not have moved here if it was a place where neighbors communicated to each other through nasty letters to the HOA."

After questions from the Naples Daily News, the HOA worked out an agreement with Ospina. He won't host any workouts before 8 a.m. and will limit the size to eight people.

"It's my understanding the neighbors were mostly complaining about it happening before 8 a.m.," said Andrea McLendon, with Ave Maria Development. "The HOA spoke with Mr. Ospina and they were able to come to an amicable agreement."