Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Family fights for right to fly flag

Homeowners’ association says display violates rules

Express Staff Writer

Steve and Robin Perfect were still flying a U.S. flag outside their Hailey condominium on Tuesday, despite objections from the homeowners’ association. Photo by David N. Seelig

Whether the right to fly the U.S. flag can trump homeowners' association rules is the main question in a debate stirring at a Hailey condominium complex.

Representatives of the Copper Ranch Homeowners' Association have notified owners of four units in the Woodside development that residents may not put anything in the common space of the property.

Property manager Brian Emerick said he sent letters to the owners on behalf of the association board, citing association rules that prohibit display of anything outdoors.

"It's about items in the common area," Emerick said. "And, tenants are not allowed to place items in the common area ... any number of things, bird houses, wind chimes, anything."

One pair of residents, Steve and Robin Perfect, have decided to continue flying a flag in honor of Robin Perfect's son, Sgt. Edward Nalder, who has deployed with the Idaho Army National Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade.

"He deployed Sept. 21. We saw him off in Boise," Robin Perfect said. "On the way home we bought an American flag at WalMart."

The Perfects, who rent a unit at Copper Ranch, said they hadn't received a copy of the homeowners' rules regarding the common area, but they have received a number of calls requesting that they remove the flag that now flies on a pole outside their front door.

Emerick said the law permits the Copper Ranch Homeowners' Association to prohibit the flag from being flown out-of-doors on the property. He said the four violations his board is currently addressing all have to do with the U.S. flag.

However, Emerick said, "the issue isn't about the flags. If, outside of his door, Mr. Perfect flew a statue of a Viking holding a saber, he would be in violation."

Emerick added that it is incumbent on the owners of the units to compel their renters to abide by association rules.

The right to fly the American flag at a condominium is specifically addressed by the "Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005." The law states that "a condominium association ... may not adopt or enforce any policy ... that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."

However, the law does not prohibit "reasonable" restrictions.

Some Copper Ranch residents, like the Perfects, have decided not to comply with the association rules because their interpretation of the federal law differs from that of the association. On Tuesday, two flags were flying at two different addresses in the development, including at the Perfects' home.

"You know what, this is my flag. This is my son, who is in Iraq fighting for everyone in this country," said Robin Perfect, who said her husband moved the flag mounting from a post in front of their unit to the wall by their front door. "I asked my husband to spread the flag to see if it would be in anyone's way. I've been trying to accommodate everyone for the past two months. It's been a nightmare."

The Perfects have received a letter in support of their right to fly the flag from Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

"This legislation supersedes homeowner association restrictions in favor of individual rights to display the U.S. flag on residential property," Crapo wrote in his Oct. 26 letter to the Perfects.

Emerick contended that the Crapo letter does not interpret the U.S. law correctly. He said his board is considering how to address the issue of non-compliance of the homeowner rules, but has not decided what further action to take.

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