An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published November 4, 2005


It never ceases to amaze me that boards of homeowners' associations think that they can decide when homeowners can show their patriotism -- and when not! The latest case here in Florida is developing in the Hunter's Creek Community Association in Orlando.


I think you need to read the statement in the letter sent by the Hunter’s Creek “Community Standards Manager” to Navy veteran Ed Granahan.  This letter asked Granahan to take down his flag and his flagpole!


(Quote) "On October 4, 2001 the Board of Directors decided to temporarily suspended the Flag Guidelines because of the outpouring of patriotism due to the September 11, 2001 tragedies.

However, once HCCA received an opinion from the attorney, regarding the recent amendments to FL Chapter 720 regarding the Display of the United States Flag, the Board of Directors agreed to re-enforce these new guidelines as of May 15, 2004." (Unquote)

In other words:  On the day of May 15, 2004 it's time to wrap up Old Glory, remove your flagpole and wait for the next disaster to strike so the board feels obligated again to suspend the rules.

This flagpole with flags has to come down, according to a letter from the Community Standards Manager.

"Stop showing your patriotism!"


Is that what association boards understand about patriotism?


Not only have the Florida statutes changed in the meanwhile, but so has the attitude of many citizens. 


On April 18, 2002 when Governor Jeb Bush signed Senate Bill 148 into law, Florida's legislators had issued a clear signal about what they think about homeowners' associations that disallow owners to display Old Glory in a respectful manner.  With the House voting 108-4 and the Senate voting 37-0 in favor of this bill, there was no doubt left in anybody's mind that the Florida legislature had no sympathy for boards that would dare to restrict flying Old Glory.


This was the text of the statute enacted:

FS 720.304 (2)  "Any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida in a respectful manner, and on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day may display in a respectful manner portable, removable official flags, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, which represent the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, regardless of any declaration rules or requirements dealing with flags or decorations."


The creation of this statute was the answer to a lengthy lawsuit a homeowners' association had waged against George Andres (a.k.a. “The Jupiter Flag Man”). The board of the Indian Creek Phase III-B HOA had sued Andres over flying his flag from a flagpole.  But I think that latest since the ruling of the Florida Appeals Court 4th District these board members wish they would have never listened to the advice of their attorney -- or would have stopped that disaster in time.


Ed Granahan, the Navy veteran, liked to fly the old "Don't Tread On Me" flag once in a while, much to the enjoyment of his neighbors!  But this flag can be as well interpreted as a sign of warning – “Stay Away” from Old Glory and the flagpole. 


Granahan's  response letters clearly say so: "Don't Tread On Me!" No surprise: Veterans, who devoted their lives to defend Old Glory don't take kindly to demands to take down the flag they proudly served!


In this case, the old catchy phrase of “protecting property values” definitely isn’t working, even though it is often used to justify even the most stupid regulations.  Actually, the flying of Old Glory enhances the neighborhood.  And it seems even board and management company think so -- Old Glory is proudly flying from a flagpole in front of the Hunter’s Creek community building.


I guess the big question is: "Why is the attorney in his opinion claiming that the board has the right to re-enforce the guidelines?" If the attorney quoted in the letter is the same attorney listed as registered agent of this association, then he  is actually the same attorney who is the registered agent for the COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE OF FLORIDA, INC. That would in my opinion explain a lot, because this trade organization appealed after 9/11 to associations to suspend their restrictions regarding flying Old Glory. But just for a short period of time: Patriotism on borrowed time!


But before this argument escalates into another "BATTLE OVER OLD GLORY," I can only hope that cooler heads prevail and this Navy veteran will be allowed to fly his flag -- as the Florida statutes clearly allow! 


Never forget: The only people that profit from a battle like this

are the same attorneys who write these "opinions"!