Thursday, March 09, 2006

Florida homeowner in trouble for pro-troops sign?

It's not that cut-and-dried. From the Tampa Tribune:
Before David Kelley went to Iraq, he bought his wife a "Support Our Troops" sign to display outside the couple's home in the Westchase subdivision.

When Kelley, an Army private, went overseas in November, Stacey Kelley posted the sign outside their home. For her, the sign is a daily reminder of the sacrifice her husband and fellow soldiers are making.

But officials of Westchase, in northwest Hillsborough County, view the sign differently. They say the 2-foot-high sign violates community rules. Stacey Kelley, 24, received a letter from the homeowners association last month stating she could be fined $100 a day if she does not remove the sign.

"I've been crying and everything since I got that," she said. "It's ridiculous that no one can even show their support."
It would be ridiculous, except...
Deed restrictions prohibit Westchase residents from displaying signs outside their homes except "for sale" or "for rent" notices. Residents get a copy of the rules when they move into the community.
One person who does understand the significance of the sign, both for Stacey Kelley and the troops, is Westchase homeowners association President Daryl Manning.

As the community's elected leader, Manning must enforce community standards, but as an Army reservist who served in Iraq, Manning is sympathetic to the Kelleys' situation.

"This sign is not offensive to me," Manning said. "In fact, I appreciate the support of the community, because I was one of those troops."

Manning said his personal feelings can't be allowed to trump his responsibility to the community. If Stacey Kelley is allowed to keep her sign, Manning said, there's nothing to prevent other residents from putting up signs that have negative messages about the troops.
I am very sympathetic to the Kelleys, but Manning is correct. The rules of the HOA were known up front, and the Kelleys bought the house anyway, thus consenting to be governed by those rules. If you allow pro-troops signs, don't you have to allow anti-troops signs? Manning would be derelict in his duty if he didn't enforce the rules properly.

The HOA will likely not fine her, provided that she complies with the sign rule. If the sign rule sucks, then amend the HOA rules. However, until then, she should honor the rules as they are currently written.