Logic goes out window when association trashes flowers?

Article Courtesy of The TC Palm

By Laurence Reisman

Published September 23, 2016


Steve Glaser HAD the nicest yard in his neighborhood. His Realtor even said so.

“You had the nicest landscaped property in Bradford Place with amazing curb appeal,” Jill Arsenault wrote Glaser. “How did you go from the nicest home in the community to what it is today? We certainly need to lower your asking price.”

What happened had nothing to do with excessive summer rain, fire or armadillos. Landscapers hired by Glaser’s homeowners association yanked out marigolds, impatiens, begonias and more — including staghorn ferns, gifts from his father. Glaser said he got wind of the destruction only after he heard his dogs barking at the crowd outside.

“I went from the nicest property to the worst,” said Glaser, 60, a longtime professional photographer who moved to the gated community of attached homes off Oslo Road, Vero Beach, in January 2014. He’d brought with him numerous flowers and plants from his Broward County home. Combined with other plants he bought locally, about $4,000 worth of landscaping was removed and dumped.

As association landscapers removed the flowers, Glaser, a volunteer with several local civic clubs, offered to remove the flowers himself and take them to nonprofits, such as the Source, a facility for the homeless. He said he was told he couldn't.

Steve Glaser is a Vero Beach resident whose flowers were ripped out by his homeowners association in 2016.

Glaser's problems stem from this verbiage, buried on page 10 of a 60-page set of association documents: “The ASSOCIATION shall plant, remove and/or replace sod, plants, shrubbery and trees” when it is in the best interest of the association. Glaser and his association board had been at odds for months over his plantings, to the point it got a lawyer involved.

That’s never a good sign.

“If you have a problem, knock on my door and we’ll talk about it,” Glaser said. After the board hired an attorney, resolving the issue amicably became a pipe dream. No one on the association side would speak with him.


The problem, said Chuck Siekman, the association’s president, is Glaser’s landscaping didn’t conform to association guidelines.

"Appearance-wise, he had some nice flowers,” Siekman said from his summer home in Iowa. “But he didn’t conform with the guidelines everyone else is living with.”

The conflict is not unusual, said Richard DeBoest of Fort Myers, an attorney whose firm specializes in association law.

“On a one-off basis, just planting a few flowers, no one cares,” DeBoest said. “But it literally will get out of control. They’ve got to nip this stuff in the bud or it becomes a real problem.”

“We don’t want to make any mistakes,” Siekman said. “You have other people who don’t want competitive landscaping taking place.”

I’ve lived in four communities with associations. Even before moving into one in 1985, my grandmother warned me not to back into my parking space. It was against the rules. I knew I couldn't own a pickup, hang my wet clothes outside, wash my car or go topless.

I read every page of my documents and made sure I lived by the rules.

Steve Glaser's beds have been less colorful since July, when his homeowners association removed his flowers.


But how many people read dozens of pages of association documents, often written so only two lawyers can understand and debate them? How many people hire attorneys to translate them? How many people read the dozens of paragraphs of agreements every time they download a new phone app or get a new bank card?

I'll bet there are lots of folks like that. Some of them have a green thumb like Glaser, who got into gardening after going to the doctor in 2009. Glaser was working like a dog and his business partner collapsed from stress. Glaser’s physician told him to stop working so hard and literally stop and smell the roses.


Glaser did. But at Bradford Place his passion ended up in so much stress he put his home on the market.

“These guys have gone way overboard with him,” said Bill Teta, a Glaser neighbor so unhappy with some of landscaping at his house he planted and now maintains his own hibiscus. He’s been permitted to do so.

As stressful as situations like this are for folks like Glaser and volunteer association members, let’s put them in proper perspective. People are dying by the scores in the Middle East, terrorists are on our shores, our next president may be somebody the majority of Americans don’t want.

And we’re arguing about illegal wind chimes, bird baths and flowers.