Dozens protest at VillageWalk 
over homeowners' ruling on flag
Article Courtesy of The Naples Daily News
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2002

Some showed up to wave American flags and take a stand in support of their beloved homeland. Others, clad in military uniform, proudly waved the Stars and Stripes and saluted passing motorists. 

But all were there to share similar feelings: To express both their love for the American flag and indignation over the recent controversy surrounding what some labeled a disgraceful disregard for the law by a North Naples homeowners association. 

"We're supporting the right that everybody has to fly the American flag," said Ray Truelove, 62, a Vietnam veteran, whose son, Rick, serves in the Marine Corps. "In today's world that we're at war, we need to wave our flag and be more patriotic than ever." 

About 50 Collier County residents many of whom are war veterans rallied under Saturday's hot sun for 1½ hours in a demonstration outside VillageWalk on Vanderbilt Beach Road meant to protest the actions of the VillageWalk Homeowners Association. 

Demonstrators criticized the association's position with regard to a $130 flagpole that Mary and Jeff Gardner erected on their property to fly an American flag in March. 

VillageWalk initially told the Gardners to take it down. But the association's power over the matter shifted gears when the Florida Legislature passed a

Jake Dicarlo, 9, a VillageWalk resident, stands with a group of veterans protesting the homeowners association's decision ordering Jeff and Mary Gardner to remove their American flag flown from a pole. Trish Dicarlo, Jake's mother, said, "This is about conformity. This country was not founded on everybody following the rules. The flag should be allowed to fly."
law on the flag issue. The Gardners say it's now the association that's breaking the law. 

Association members contend their intention is merely to follow rules and establish order in the 850-home community. 

The association's attorney, Robert Samouce, is looking into the legality of the Gardners' 15-foot portable flagpole, which stands in the front of their property. 

"(The association) feels that the only reason we want the flagpole is to show we're more patriotic than everybody else," Mary Gardner said. "That's just not true. How can I compare to these men, (the veterans) who have shed their blood and fought for our country?" 

But Paul Feuer, board president of the association, doesn't see it that way. 

Attending Saturday's rally to give his side of the story, he said the problem wasn't the American flag it's the height of the flagpole being used to display it that's an issue. 

"We have no opposition on flying the flag," said Feuer, adding he's a retired civilian worker from the Navy. 

"We've made it clear to the Gardners that it wasn't our intention to enforce them taking down the flag because this is a gray area in terms of interpretation," he said. 

Feuer is referring to an April bill passed by the Florida Legislature that forbids homeowners associations from preventing residents flying the American flag. He contends the association isn't sure the ruling is clear because it only addresses the issue of the flag and not where the flag should fly from. 

"We're trying to interpret what the Legislature passed," Feuer said. "That says any homeowner can fly a flag provided the flag is portable, removable and is flown respectfully. It doesn't say anything about a flagpole." 

The Gardners' flagpole is portable but Feuer said it's only portable when it comes apart in four pieces. He said the pole could pose a safety hazard to the community in the event of a hurricane or strong wind gusts. 

Jeff Gardner said safety isn't an issue because the flagpole is sturdy. He pointed out that the flag bill has been in force since Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law.

"The Legislature says you have authority in this," said Jeff Gardner, an Air Force veteran and former Massachusetts state trooper. "We don't need anyone's permission to fly our flag. Unfortunately, this is a situation where some people have taken sides and this has created some animosity in the community." 

Herb Savage of Marco Island leads a group of veterans in singing "God Bless America" as they stand in front of VillageWalk, protesting the homeowners association's decision ordering Jeff and Mary Gardner to remove their American flag flown from a pole, as Jake Dicarlo, 9, a VillageWalk resident, watches. "I'm here in support of the Gardners," said veteran and protester Ray Truelove. "It seems somewhat petty during this time of war." 
Mary Gardner said the association is taking time to dissect the recently passed Florida law for one reason. 

"They're looking for a loophole and they want to find their own interpretation of the law," she said. "They've essentially broken the law by defying Jeb Bush; they're not making us take down the flag yet. But they're calling me a troublemaker." 

The Gardners' battle with the homeowners association to keep their flag on a flagpole was supported not only by veterans and VillageWalk residents but by other Collier residents who met the Gardners at Saturday's rally. 

Vietnam vet Joe Hennelly said the debate over the Gardners' flag was a "foolish situation that can be resolved if both sides communicate." 

"(The association) is in violation of state law," said Hennelly, 56. "If the flagpole is an issue, then come up with a height restriction. They're just coming up with decisions that are against the law." 

Mary and Gino Alberto, property owners at VillageWalk for the past five years, said they can't understand why the association is acting this way. 

"I went and looked at the facts of this," Mary Alberto said. "I saw that the condo commandos were trying to take the Gardners' choice to fly the flag from a flagpole away." 

Gino Alberto, a World War II veteran who served in the Army and Marines, called the situation "ridiculous." 

"There's more important things that need to be dealt with here than a flagpole. This isn't patriotic what (the association) is doing. It's harassment," he said.

Veterans to protest homeowners' association's flagpole ban 
Article Courtesy of The Naples Daily News
Posted Thursday, July 25, 2002

A group of veterans in North Naples is ready to fight another war. 

Vietnam Veterans Chapter 706 plans to protest a homeowners' association's ban of a flagpole in front of a couple's home in the VillageWalk development. 

"We're protesting the fact that there's a homeowner here who's not being allowed to fly his American flag from a portable flagpole," Ray Truelove, a Vietnam veteran and chapter member, said Wednesday. 

"It's about patriotism. We believe that anyone, any citizen of this country, should be allowed to fly the American flag in an appropriate manner anytime they want to," said Truelove, a VillageWalk resident. "This is about the right of an American citizen to fly the national flag." 

The veterans plan to march for American flag-flying rights beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the entrance to VillageWalk, just west of Interstate 75 on the south side of Vanderbilt Beach Road. 

The VillageWalk Homeowners Association has asked residents Mary and Jeff Gardner to take down their 15-foot portable flagpole, which they bought at a Naples sign shop for $130.
Veterans' pro-flag demonstration
9:30 a.m. Saturday
Entrance to VillageWalk
West of I-75 on south side of
Vanderbilt Beach Road 
The Gardners say the homeowners' association is violating a new state law signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in April. The law says any homeowner may display the U.S. flag and prohibits association documents from placing restrictions upon its display. 

The Gardners say they and many of their supporters find it hard to believe the homeowners' association is so flagrantly violating the law. The looked into the association's rules and found no prohibition of any kind of flagpole before they bought theirs, they said. 

The homeowners' association town manager, David Beswick, sent a letter to the Gardners in March, shortly after their flagpole went up, demanding they take it down. They complied, but put it back up after Bush signed the flag-flying bill into law in April. 

Beswick declined comment and the association's attorney, Robert Samouce, couldn't be reached. 

Mary Gardner said she and her husband plan to be at Saturday's protest. 

"Absolutely. We'll definitely be there," she said. "We've had slews of support from our neighborhood. We have young families and older people that's the beauty of it. We haven't had any negative people at all." 

Jeff Gardner, a retired trooper with the Massachusetts state police and an Air Force veteran, said he didn't know where the homeowners' association board members were coming from. 

"We thank the governor and the Legislature for passing the law," he said. "But (the association) is still arguing the case. They're researching the definition of 'portable.' They're saying they don't like the 15-foot flagpole." 

Gardner said the aluminum flagpole comes in four sections and pops into a plastic-lined, cement hole he put in the ground for that purpose. In case of a hurricane or some other reason, he can take it apart in a hurry. He even took it to association members to show them what it looks like. 

They didn't budge. 

The Gardners' case is the second flag-banning incident of its kind in the Naples area in the past month. 

Pat Purnell of IslandWalk, a North Naples development off Immokalee Road, came under fire from the homeowners' association there for flying the U.S. Marine Corps flag beneath the American flag in front of his home. 

John Koprowski of Zephyrhills, Region IV director of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said similar stories were unfolding at other developments and communities throughout Florida. 

"Some people try to bend the rule," Koprowski said. "The governor specifically said the American flag can be displayed. Patriotism right now is probably the highest it's ever been." 

Koprowski said the only way to solve the VillageWalk flagpole dilemma and others like it is for the homeowners' association and residents to sit down and talk it out until they reach an amicable agreement. 

"It's not going to be resolved until they do that," Koprowski said. 

The Gardners say their flagpole will remain in front of their house since they now have a state law protecting it regardless of the homeowners' association's objections. 

"We want to resolve it," Jeff Gardner said. "All we're trying to do is end this thing, because it's ludicrous. We have the law on our side, and we're flying it." 

Brent Batten: Marine Corps banner 
a battle flag to homeowners' association
NAPLES When you sign up for the Marines, you leave behind some of the rights and freedoms you enjoyed as a civilian. 

North Naples resident Pat Purnell is learning the hard way that the same thing happens when you sign up for a community with neighborhood bylaws. 

Purnell is the Island Walk homeowner taking fire from the neighborhood association over his practice of flying both the American and Marine Corps flags outside his house. 

Displaying the service flag is a proud and patriotic gesture by a father whose son serves in the Corps. 

It is also against the association's rules rules presumably in place to keep aesthetically challenged neighbors from keeping a front-yard flock of plastic pink flamingoes or building a "look" around colorful souvenir windsocks. 

Just like the Marine Corps has its share of rule-happy martinets, homeowners associations are populated with a minority of horses' behinds hopped up on a little bit of power and unwilling to either salute the flags of freedom or, at a minimum, look the other way when passing by. 

At least in the Corps seemingly petty rules have basis in martial function. A sergeant's insistence that he see his reflection in a recruit's boot isn't based so much in the non-com's vanity as it is in the ultimate likelihood that a well-cared-for boot will hold up in combat. 

The same can't be said for Purnell's antagonists at Island Walk. A Marine Corps flag isn't going to bring about a drop in property values as would, say, a scene from "Snow White" re-created in loving detail with lawn hobbits hand-crafted from old milk jugs. 

Still, rules are rules and Purnell seems destined for a hearing before the community's architectural police where the best he can hope for is an exemption to the one-flag standard. 

Purnell admits he didn't closely read the neighborhood rules when he moved to Island Walk from New Jersey three years ago. He also says he appreciates the rules' ability to prevent, as an example, someone from planting a full-size railroad caboose in his yard as a conversation piece. 

"I'm not a rebel," he declares. 

Apparently, according to the Island Walk bylaws, he is. 

Welcome to Florida Mr. Purnell. 

Semper fi. 

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