Occasionally, when I feel a bit overwhelmed by maintenance issues in my house, I think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to move into a condo and not have to shovel the walk, deal with landscaping or a leaky roof?” When those moments come, stories such as this from Kansas City’s KCTV News remind me that I prefer my politics national rather than hyperlocal. The Raintree Lake Property Owners Association has demanded that a homeowner take down a playground set erected for their two young daughters two years ago because the soft purple and white color scheme isn’t harmonious enough with the neighborhood — and their attorneys are threatening them with jail time if they don’t comply (via Fox News):
The other residents in the neighborhood are livid at the board:
“You’re spending money, our hard-earned money on a ridiculous unwarranted lawsuit,” said Nicole Bonds, who recently moved to Raintree and wore a purple shirt to the meeting to express her support for the Stout family.
The battle began almost a year after the playhouse went up. Stout says she went before the Architectural Review Board offering alternate color schemes but was shot down every time.
In November of 2014 the POA’s lawyer sent the Stouts a letter informing them a lawsuit would be filed seeking a court order to remove the playhouse, which he referred to as a swing set. It warned that if the court ordered the swing set removed and the family refused to do so, it “could result in your being held in civil contempt…which would bring with it a daily fine or jail time until the swing set was removed.”
It’s a threat that angered neighbors who addressed the Board Tuesday night.
“Jail time, really?” asked Dawson. “For a play set with the wrong colors?”
Resident Richard Harkins called the letter “the legal equivalent of baseball bats and brass knuckles.”
“This is not reasonable what you’ve done,” said Harkins, who speculated on motives such as “vendetta or ego or misplaced pride.”
Hey, HOA politics are just like national politics! Leadership stonewalls, throws their weight around, and refuses to provide transparency to their constituents just like real politicians do. Maybe one of them can fill in for Hillary Clinton if she drops out of the race.
The residents of Raintree Lake are right to be livid. One never knows how a court will rule in advance, but the petty and vindictive nature of this lawsuit over an issue that never generated a single complaint amongst the family’s neighbors will be difficult for a judge to ignore. That, plus the heavy-handed intimidation tactics of the plaintiffs — who are they to threaten jail time, anyway? — will not likely dispose a judge to sympathy for their case. While people in homeowners associations do cede some control of their property in these agreements in exchange for coordinated services, they do not cede all rights, nor does an HOA get to act capriciously, arbitrarily, or vindictively — and the approved playground set in the common area strongly suggests that it’s all three here.
HOA boards have to come up for election at some point. On top of that, they have to live in these neighborhoods. It’s going to be pretty uncomfortable for this board to do either for a while under these circumstances after their heavy-handed tactics over a playground set that bothered no one but them.