Oviedo HOA board opposed to Little Free Library resigns after outcry

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Stephen Hudak

Published July 16, 2018

Directors of an Oviedo homeowners association who opposed a Little Free Library in a resident’s yard resigned this week after appointing three replacements, including Autumn Huff Garick, who refused to get rid of the book-sharing nook near her front sidewalk.


“Yeah, the library is saved,” Garick said in a text after the meeting Wednesday.

The fight over the birdhouse-sized book box in Bentley Woods had triggered a heated discussion on social media earlier this year and led some residents of the middle-class neighborhood to question “inconsistent application” of the so-called nuisance clause in the community rules.

About half of the 200-plus households in the community signed a petition Garick carried door-to-door earlier this year that read, “I like the little library on Bentley Street. Please let it stay.”

In a letter to residents last month, community association manager Raymond Shrum defended the volunteer directors and decried “public animosity that … only serves to unfairly disparage neighbors and discourage people from volunteering in essential roles of the community.”

“The board members are not your enemies,” he wrote.

Shrum noted board members had been advised by legal counsel not to discuss the matter of the library.

The Garicks of Bentley Woods in Oviedo pose with their Little Free Library.


The letter also said the board’s goals to improve the community and communications with residents had been “sidelined as a direct result of the library issue.”

Calls to Shrum were directed to a lawyer Thursday. The lawyer did not respond to a call for comment.

The HOA directors voted unanimously in April to direct a lawyer to send Garick and her husband a certified letter demanding they take down the nook filled with children’s books such as “Where the Wild Things Are,” arguing the popular mini-library is prohibited by association rules.

The lawyer, Ryan Fong, also demanded the Garicks pay the HOA’s legal fees.

The Garicks said no.

According to board minutes posted on the community website, Fong silenced discussion of the free library issue at an HOA meeting in May that had a high turnout of residents, declaring the board would not comment on the pending legal matter regarding the library until he reviewed documents and consulted with the Garicks’ lawyer.

Four of the seven HOA directors then resigned, including board president, Tammy Komoff.

Shrum’s letter said the HOA aims to protect property values. “Approving one non-conforming structure can open the door to any number of other types of structures, rapidly detracting neighborhood values,” the letter read.

The letter said the board’s position was “in no way intended to be arbitrary or punitive.”

He also pointed out the Garicks declined the option to move the library box to community-owned property.

The letter encouraged residents to attend the July HOA meeting, and about 30 did.

The remaining board members resigned at that meeting, which the Garicks videotaped.

As their replacements, they chose Autumn Garick and two other residents in the audience who volunteered.

“In England, they call it a vote of no confidence,” exiting director John “Jack” McKay said.

The new board took no action on the library Wednesday.

“The library was put up to build community. That is still my focus and, as a board member, it’s my responsibility,” Garick said in a phone interview. “I hope to be part of a board that is transparent, consistent and kind.”

“Bentley Woods is a beautiful neighborhood with loads of wonderful folks — working together we can make it even better,” said Garick, who has lived there 17 years and has three daughters.

The community is about a mile from Oviedo High School.

The box in dispute is part of the Little Free Library movement started in 2009 by a Wisconsin man who built a book-sharing nook shaped like a one-room schoolhouse to honor his mother, a teacher.

Since then, more than 60,000 “branches” have sprouted around the world — including several dozen throughout Central Florida neighborhoods, according to littlefreelibrary.org, a website for a nonprofit group created to promote community book exchanges.