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MountainLaurel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:35 AM
Original message
Driveway Painting Tests Religious Freedom
Ah, the joys of neighborhood associations in the suburbs . . .

A Loudoun County man was in big trouble over his driveway. And every day it was costing him $10 in fines.

Ram Balasubramanian had painted a Hindu religious symbol on his South Riding driveway for a family event. The six-foot design of swirling red and white paint was pretty enough, but his homeowners association was not impressed. They sent a stern certified letter ordering him to remove it and "return the asphalt to a black state."

Balasubramanian can't bear the idea of blacking out the kolam, he says, because it is a religious expression welcoming the Hindu goddess of prosperity and other guests into the home. For every day that he refused to remove it, the association charged Balasubramanian $10, which has now accrued to the maximum $900 fine. The association says it won't consider waiving the fine until the kolam is gone. Balasubramanian is not sure he has the strength -- or the money -- to keep fighting.

"If I have to remove it, it's going to be with a lot of pain," said Balasubramanian, 47. "Because of the emotional values I have for it. Whenever we have something auspicious in the house, we do not destroy it or apply black paint to it. Call it psychological or emotional. That's not something we could do in our value system." /
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sharp_stick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:39 AM
Response to Original message
1. But he's willing to drive over it?
Why oh why don't people read their home association rules before getting into trouble with them.

That being said I really hate homeowners associations and damned near every one of thier nosy and idiotic rules and that's why I'd never live in a place that had one.
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annabanana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:41 AM
Response to Original message
2. I think it's beautiful I wish MY neighborhood had some of
those painted around the place...
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
3. Hmm? Do HOAs have the power to limit free speech
and free exercise? It might make an interesting court case.
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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Yes they do.
Because by buying the house you voluntarily enter into a contract where you waive those rights, inasmuch as they apply to the covenants of the HOA.

If private parties cannot waive their constitutional rights, and be bound by that agreement, then you have just overturned essentially all civil law.

That by the way is an opinion only on the contract (and while I am highly experienced with contracts, IANAL) not on the underlying issue. While HOA's can be restrictive petty little tyrants, homeowners can also be either intentionally disruptive or unintentionally tacky enough to affect the enjoyment of others, so I also have no truck with the blanket ability of owners to do whatever they wish with their property. Few people really do, no matter how much they claim this. For anyone who does considre the following questions:

a) In a normal developed area of houses close together, is it OK if a neighbor builds a 40' high three story addition right next to his neighbors' driveway? Why or why not?

b) Is it OK for a neighbor to operate a foundry in his yard - with the noise, smell and emissions that entails. Why or why not?

c) Is it OK for a neighbor to pile broken down cars three deep in his yard, right up to the edge of his neighbors? Why or why not?

Dure painting a design on your driveway is not the same as these, but unless you draw no line the argument must be where to draw it. I personally ahve no problem with driveway designs like this either, but if you OK one is it OK to have a "burn in hell sinners and sodomites" design, since that is free exercise? Is it OK to have a "Jihad against Western infidels" drivewya design since that is free exercise? Or even a "God is Santa Claus for grown ups and a delusion for the weak minded" design? You have to allow all or none.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 11:12 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. The argument may also be
Who draws the line.

Zoning ordinances are not the same as HOA contracts.

But anyway, my next question is what happens if he doesn't pay the $900? Can the HOA put a lien on his home? Wouldn't they have to go to court for that? If the offender is willing to hire enough lawyers can't he make it too expensive for the HOA to pursue?

Just thinking out loud.
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remedy1 Donating Member (168 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 11:26 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Yes they can.
HOA's can place a lien against the property for unpaid assessments and/or fines. They can also force foreclosure if the assessments/fines remain unpaid.

About the only thing HOA's cannot ban is flying the US flag.
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cosmik debris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 11:32 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. That's interesting.
I wonder why the flag is held in higher respect than god?
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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 11:47 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. Kind of
Zoning and HOA are covered under different systems of enactment and enforcement, but they both govern what you can and can't do with your property that might hurt the enjoyment of others' property.

The difference is you get a direct choice in whether to be subject to an HOA or not - don't buy the house if not!

Yes HOAs can place a lien on the house and yes it will be upheld (unless it is blatantly illegal, which this one isn't - a covenant stating you had to whip your kids every Sunday would not be enforceable). Lawyers are a possible option sure, but are far more expensive than any HOA fines I've come across.

I am no fan of HOAs and having lived under one once will not do so again, but a contract is a contract and this one will only turn out bad for the homeowner.
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BR_Parkway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Certainly they do - it's part of a contract established when you agree
to buy that house and live there. If you don't want to agree to those rules, then you need to live somewhere else. It's not like the rules aren't in place before people make the decision. It would be totally different if they come about afterwards.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 02:19 PM
Response to Reply #3
13. I just bought a new house on a small private street...
...and now that the builders of this small six-house development are finishing up, we're just now forming our own little HOA. It should be interesting. We have no choice about having some sort of association because it's up to us to collect our own trash and plow our own snow.

What really sucks (so far) is not the association, but that we're taxed at exactly the same rate as everyone else in town who gets full services from the town.

At any rate, I wouldn't mind this particular design being drawn in a neighbor's driveway, and wouldn't want to vote against it being allowed on my street. Then again, I don't know that I'd automatically be tolerant of anything a neighbor might draw on his or her driveway, or other potential eyesores my neighbors might decide to create.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
6. Blandness should be outlawed.
Along with all home owners associations.
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Sophree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 12:53 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. HOAs are the devil
And they're usually run by his minions. :7

Seriously, we had quite a few run-ins with the HOA over signs- there were no signs allowed, not even real estate signs. I think the first run-in was over a Kerry/Edwards sign. We had to take it down, but we put it in one of the front windows.

Then, when my Dad had relocated because of his job and my brothers and I were moving the rest of the stuff out, we had a garage sale (also not allowed- actually the HOA couldn't prevent us from having one, as long as we didn't advertise it- again, no signs, and no advertisements). We had spoken with one person at the HOA who explained this to us. So, we had the garage sale and this a$$hole pulls up in a big truck- we thought he was a buyer at first. He marched up to us, actually to me, and asked, "Are you the daughter?" I said, yes.... He was rude and mean and I think suffered from small penis disorder. "This isn't the first time... I'm the one in charge, that you need to clear things with, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, he threatened to fine my Dad, which was the only thing that kept me from telling him to F off.
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Marrah_G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 01:17 PM
Response to Original message
12. Never buy a house in a HMA- period
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moobu2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 07:23 PM
Response to Original message
14. In my homeowner association agreement

It says that the property can not be rented or sold to Negros. Actually I think they used the term negroids and that no alcoholic beverages can be sold on the premises. The association agreement was written in 1927 and at the bottom of the document there is a later stamp that says anything illegal in the agreement is void as of 1964, I guess it was stamped in response to the civil rights act of 64. So now I can rent or sell to any race but I still can not sell alcohol.

Anyway, this guy should get rid of this painting and think seriously about the fact that this pretty design is nothing more than pigment and chemicals and has no magical powers. I'd rent a power washer and blast it off. He should have thought about this before he signed the agreement.
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onager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-09-08 03:06 AM
Response to Original message
15. The Goddess of Prosperity? That isn't working out too well for him.

Some stuff about HOAs, since I was the (unwilling) President of one for several years. Nobody else wanted the job, but California law says all condominium-type homes MUST have a Homeowners Association. (I own a townhouse in Los Angeles, in a small building of only 13 units):

--Running an HOA is an interesting experiment in human psychology. The first problem you run into: every homeowner seems to think the trash gets picked up, the building painted, normal maintenance done, etc. by magic. And for FREE!

--Despite the fact that prices for these services increase every year, NOBODY ever wants their Association dues increased.

--A few years ago, our building badly needed a new roof. Several people had leaks. We had an HOA meeting to discuss a Special Assessment to fix the roof.

One woman actually said: "My roof doesn't leak, so I shouldn't have to pay this assessment." After we all picked our jaws up off the floor, another woman said: "We all live under the same roof." Exactly.

But when anyone needed a personal repair, they expected it to be done immediately. And again, for FREE! Sometimes people would knock on my door late at night to tell me their toilet didn't work.

Huh? Hey, I'm the President of an HOA, dipstick, not an apartment manager. Toilets are YOUR responsibility.

--Oh yes, as shown by the experts in this thread, HOAs are just full of petty, small-minded Nazis who go around harassing innocent homeowners.

Well, what do you do when a neighbor suddenly decides to run an auto-repair shop out of his garage? When another neighbor lets her teen son and his buddies party in a common garage area, blasting music, illegally drinking alcohol and pissing on the floors...since the bathroom is, like, 50 feet away and it's such a HASSLE, man?

I've had those things happen, and many more and even weirder. So don't be so quick to judge.

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