In Novi, Michigan, there’s a big battle kicking up over a family’s nativity scene in their front yard. The problem is that they live in a neighborhood with a neighborhood association that has rules against such displays:
The Samonas’ neighborhood association has ordered the Novi family to remove its seven-piece plastic display or face possible fines of $25 to $100 per week.
The family isn’t budging and neither are its three wise men. The Samonas have vowed not only to keep the display, but also are threatening to enhance it.”If you take this out, it’s not Christmas anymore,” said Joe Samona, 16, as he reached down and scooped baby Jesus from the creche on his parents’ front lawn.
A letter sent by the association to the Samonas has brought to their front yard the nation’s latest skirmish over just how and where the Christianity of Christmas should be on display.
Last week, Joe’s parents, Betty and Frank Samona, received a notice from the community association that sets regulations in their upscale Tollgate Woods subdivision. It said the family may be violating rules that prohibit lawn ornaments, statues or outdoor art from being placed on the lot without prior approval of the board of directors.
Then it simply says: “Please remove the nativity scene display from your front yard.”…
Dean Williams, the community association manager and author of the letter, said according to association rules in place since 2000 and signed by the Samonas when they bought the home in 2002, homeowners must request permission to place statues or lawn ornaments outside their home. The Samonas say they never signed any such document.
I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I wouldn’t live in a neighborhood with a neighborhood assocation if you put a gun to my head. Not for a millisecond am I going to tolerate being told that my mailbox is too big, or my wreath is too wide, or that I can’t park my car where I want to because some busybody with nothing better to do than stare out their window can’t keep their mouth shut. On the other hand, if you’re stupid enough to buy a house with such an association as a condition of ownership (achieved through covenants in the master deed), then you’re legally bound to follow the rules even if you don’t like them. And I’ll guarantee that they did sign such papers when they bought the house, even if they don’t know they did. And if they signed the papers without first knowing what the HOA agreement said, they deserve everything they get.