I’ll admit it, I’m something of a Grinch. I’m just not very good at putting up the holiday decorations that so many other people do so well. My neighborhood is having a holiday light competition. I haven’t managed to put up any lights, but if I were to put up anything, it would look like the house on the right:
The Armstrong family of Wellington’s house would look more like the one on the left – if they decided to go "low key." The Armstrongs have a tradition of an extraordinarily elaborate display, combined with holiday cheer for passersby and charitable giving for those less fortunate. The Fort Collins Coloradoan recently reported on their struggle to keep their light display in spite of their homeowners association’s objection.
According to the article, the HOA recently changed its rules to limit "lawn ornaments" to a total of three per property. The HOA claimed the Armstrong’s display violated the rule and demanded they remove the decorations or face fines.
I’m a Grinch, but even I wouldn’t try to enforce a "lawn ornament" rule against a holiday display.
The rule was likely drafted to prevent homeowners from accumulating numerous garden gnomes, and wasn’t intended to impact temporary displays like the one at issue here. However, the HOA Board interpreted the rule to prevent the Armstrong’s display, and suddenly found itself the subject of news stories and neighborhood condemnation. It’s possible that the Board received complaints from a few owners about the Armstrong’s display, and decided to attempt enforcement to quiet a squeaky wheel.
I don’t think I would want to live across the street from the Armstrong’s lights, but in the absence of a clearly-written rule prohibiting such a display, the Board should not have demanded its removal. If rules and regulations are unclear, an association should seek legal advice to help with interpretation or revision. Otherwise, the Board may find itself forced to backtrack from an unpopular position, weakening its authority in the community, and making the Board members look like big Grinches!