Obama Lawn Sign Fuels Nasty 4-Year Neighborhood Battle That's Still Raging

Say What!? 21

Obama yard signWhen Sam and Maria Farran planted a lawn sign for Obama in their yard during the 2008 election, they had no idea what a huge ordeal it would become. Now more than four years and another election later, the battle over that one measly sign is still being waged, and it's been nothing but ugly, tearing apart their entire Virginia neighborhood.

According to a fascinating story in the Washington Post, it all started because the sign was a mere four inches bigger than the Home Owners Association (HOA) allowed. When the HOA approached the couple about the sign, they didn't just remove it, instead they chopped it half and made two signs -- "OBA" and "MA". Kind of funny, kind of clever, right? The HOA wasn't laughing, however, and fined the couple $900. Steep!

Of course it didn't end there, and after their proposal for some renovations was denied, they decided to sue. They said their freedom of speech was being thwarted, and their neighbors either agreed ... or strongly disagreed. From finding bullets in their yard to someone trying to get a priest at their church to get them to put a stop to the lawsuit, it's been ugly and costly.

A court sided with the Farrans and said the HOA had to pay their legal fees, which forced it to go bankrupt. Now HOA fees have skyrocketed (from $650 a year to about $3,500) and they're being forced to sell a common area that was once the place of community gatherings. All because of one small sign. Crazy right?

Absolutely, but the thing is if you choose to live in a community governed by an HOA, you need to be ready to either work to change the rules you don't agree with or follow them. Just breaking them isn't the way to go. And while the rigidity of some of them is pretty ridiculous, they do have to set limits at some point. So if one sign is four inches too big, what if the next is 14 inches too big, and so forth.

The bottom line is if you don't like the rules, you don't have to live there. You can go live in a non-HOA-ruled neighborhood, where anyone can plunk an old bathtub in their front yard. So while I sympathize with the Farrans on some level and think this seems to be a particularly militant HOA, they're the ones who broke the rules and chose to escalate things, and now the entire neighborhood has to pay. 

Which side are you on?


Image via animantis/Flickr

home life, newsworthy, yards


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bills... billsfan1104

I would never live in a HOA. If they just put a regular lawn sign in their yard, instead of being a smart ass about it, this wouldn't of happened. Now others have to suffer and pay a higher association fee because of this nonsense.

the4m... the4mutts

LoL well I agree with the homeowners, and aparently a judge did too. If the HOA didnt want to lose money, they should have re-evaluated & thought "maybe a sign isnt worth the trouble".

I would never live in an HOA.

I get that the purpose of an HOA is to keep the neighborhood looking good, and property values high. But is a sign thats typically only going to be up for a month, really something they had to get butt-hurt over? Something non-permanent, that isnt crude, isnt going to hurt property values any. They could always have called a meeting to amend the rule, to say that these kinds of signs could only be up for "X" amount of time per-year, then when it was gone, no harm done.

tbruc... tbrucemom

I also wouldn't live in a HOA, but agree with the writer. If you choose to do so you have to abide by their rules or work with your HOA board to change them. A lot of them won't let you fly flags, which includes the American flag, so I have no problem with them telling this owner they can't have an Obama/Biden sign in their yard. But again I wouldn't live somewhere that could tell me I couldn't fly our flag. It's ridiculous that a court sided with the owner when they were clearly breaking the rules and now everyone has to suffer because of it.  I agree that $900 was way too much so they were wrong on that point. I would have trimmed 2 inches off each side and called it a day.

Melan... MelanieJK

One thing that's very helpful with campaign signs (and any signs really) in neighborhoods are very strict rules limitting how long and/or often they can be displayed.         For example,  limit campaign signs to a couple of weeks  before elections with a couple of days afterward to get rid of them.    Similar limits on school actiivity signs,   team support,   etc are helpful.   

Having specific but reasonable limits actually prevents bans.    It's people taking advantage that leads to bans,    People don't want to live in a neighborhood cluttered with signs whether they agree with them or not.

SIMom... SIMomSays

I agree all they had to do was get a smaller sign to begin with. The rules are the rules. Are they ridiculous? Yes. But you know that when you agree to live in a development with a HOA. Now everyone is paying for something very silly. They didn't tell them they couldn't have an "Obama" sign they told them that had to have a SMALLER sign. So just do it.

Pinkmani Pinkmani

Rules are rules, get over it. If you disagree, than work with them to change it. It didn't have to get so ugly.

And who the heck measured the damn sign?

lulou lulou

From the article, it sounds like the HOA overstepped their bounds, and possibly  overzealous in retribution on this couple.  If it didnt specifically say they couldnt have 2 signs, too bad.  And from the article, it didnt sound like they had the authority to fine.  It should have ended there.

Tripl... TripleC14

I don't get it. If the original sign was only 4" too big, then they cut the sign in half and it became 2 signs, then how could the 2 new signs possibly be too big still? Sounds like they did follow the rules and got around the HOA by being creative. Then to retaliate, the HOA denied requests in unrelated matters. IMO, the homeowners aren't the ones in the wrong here.

sassy... sassykat122

What is ridiculous is this couple adhered to the letter of the rule and the HOA acted like a sore loser. Their sign was four inches to big so they split it in half and technically made two signs. Where in the HOA rules did it say they couldn't do that? The HOA penalized the couple for being smart a*s, not breaking the rules. The HOA brought this on themselves

TheTr... TheTruthTeller

Hate HOA, but I can't help but think that there are bigger things in life to stress about. Grow up and get a smaller sign. No one is trying to silence you, idiots.

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