An Obama lawn sign battle has lasted four years and cost a community more than $400,000 — and it’s still not over.
The battle began in Alexandria, Virginia after Sam and Maria Farran planted and Obama for President sign in their years for the 2008 election. The action sent them on a collision course with their homeowners association.
The sign was four inches taller than the association’s covenants allowed, prompting one neighbor to email the association, claiming:
“Need I say more! This would lead to chaos. Our property values would be put at risk.”
The Washington Post reports that the battle, according to Maria Farran, “destroyed our community.” The homeowner’s association sent the Farrans a letter saying that the sign was not allowed. Instead of taking the sign down, the couple cut it in half.
But the homeowner’s association didn’t appreciate the couple’s humor. Instead, they fined them $900 for the Obama lawn sign, inciting the battle that left the homeowner’s association bankrupt.
The board also rejected the couples’ proposals for roof and deck renovations under what the Farrans considered less than legitimate circumstances. The Atlantic Wire notes that, because of the three dismissals, the Farrans sued the homeowner’s association, saying that it didn’t have the authority to impose fines, adding that the HOA rejected their home improvements. Maria Farran stated:
“It’s like we weren’t living in America. You are always one board election away from a tyranny. They wield enormous power.”
During the legal proceedings, the Farrans have found bullets in their yard. Someone even asked a priest at their church to prevail on the couple to stop their lawsuit. A real estate agent in the area claims that the battle has scared off potential home buyers.
Through the course of the lawsuit, the HOA increased yearly dues from $650 per year to $3,500, mostly to cover its legal fees. Both sides have also claimed they tried to settle the matter, but the other side was unwilling to do so.
The courts sided with the Farrans in both 2010 and 2011, forcing the homeowner’s association to come up with $100,000 to cover legal fees and damages. They have yet to pay the full amount, because of bankruptcy.
The battle sparked by an Obama lawn sign has torn apart the community, with its square — the literal center of the community — put up for sale by the HOA’s bankruptcy court to cover the cost of the lawsuit.