The next flag flap in NEW JERSEY ?
Defiant homeowners refuse to lower flag
Article Courtesy of
Posted 07 - 23 - 2003

HAMILTON -- Dori and Ralph McIlvaine have become the lone wolves in this age-restricted community, now that their neighbor has decided to lower his flag and comply with association rules. 

The McIlvaines are liable for $25-per-day fines for refusing to take down the POW/MIA flag which flies outside their residence.

"We’re still going to continue flying it like we’ve been doing since May," Dori McIlvaine said, looking skyward at the distinctive black flag flying beneath the American flag.

"I see people with small flags on their lawns and yellow ribbons everywhere without anyone objecting," she said. "We’re patriotic, too. Why should we be discriminated against?"

When she and her husband moved to Evergreen two years ago from South Brunswick, they applied for a permit to fly an American flag. Permission was readily granted.

"There’s nothing in the bylaws about flying a flag," McIlvaine said. "We had thought it was all right to fly our POW/MIA flag. It’s a flag that shows our freedom."

Evergreen’s governing board has ordered the McIlvaines and their neighbors, Sandy and Jack Battaglia, who live on Hummingbird Drive, to remove their flags or face a $25-per-day fine as of Tuesday plus any incurred court costs.

The Battaglias had a white-and-yellow flag with the head of an eagle which said "We Support Our Troops" flying under their American flag. It had been taken down for cleaning yesterday and the Battaglias later said they had decided not to put it up again.

"Why should they (the adult community’s governing board) object to a patriotic flag showing our support for our troops is beyond my understanding," said Sandy Battaglia. "It wasn’t like we’d put up an offensive flag with nude people on it."

Just after July 4 the McIlvaines received a letter from Evergreen’s architectural committee stating that the couple had to fill out a property modification form for the flag and take it down until they received approval.

"We got this notice out of the blue," said Dori McIlvaine. "We were baffled as to why we received the letter. My husband filled out the form and I delivered it to the management office on July 9 because the office is closed on Tuesday."

Thinking they had complied with the rules, the McIlvaines didn’t give it much thought after that and continued to fly their flag.

On July 17, they received a letter from the homeowners association’s board of directors ordering the McIlvaines to "cease and desist" flying the POW/MIA flag or be fined $25 per day as of July 22 plus any legal fees which the association might incur.

"That evening (July 17) the architectural committee met behind closed doors to discuss our application," Dori McIlvaine said. "We were told we could not attend."

She said her husband called Donna Styles, Evergreen’s property manager, to ask about the status of their application.

"We were told that our application had been denied as well as the one submitted by Jack and Sandy Battaglia. No reason was given," said Dori McIlvaine. "Then we went down to the management office and picked up a copy of our application. There was a check mark on it saying it was denied as of July 17, but no reason why was written on it."

Neither Evergreen’s management nor its architectural committee could be reached for comment yesterday.

"John Periano (the homeowners association’sboard president) flew an Evergreen Community flag under his American flag and then took it down," Dori McIlvaine said. "Then he put a state flag in its place and he’s still flying it."

Periano said that the American and state flags are allowed, but flags out of the ordinary need permission from the architectural committee.

"They (the McIlvaines) were flying their flag a month before they even applied to fly it," Periano said. "There’s nothing wrong with their flag. We don’t object to that. It’s just their failure to follow proper procedure."

He said the McIlvaines were fined $25 yesterday.

"Before they were fined, they were asked to remove the flag pending resolution of the issue," Periano said. "They chose to continue flying it anyway."

Periano said the two couples were invited to attend the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the flags flown by the McIlvaines and the Battaglias. He did not know why the architectural committee rejected both couples’ flag petitions.

"The architectural committee meetings are closed ones, but the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee’s meeting, which will address the flag issue is open to the public," Periano said. "Our monthly homeowners’ association board meetings are also open."

Dori McIlvaine said she called Donna Styles Monday and asked her to send McIlvaine a letter as to why the architectural committee denied the couple’s application and to include the names of the architectural committee members as well as the members of the homeowners’ association.

"I also asked her if she heard from John Periano to send our application to the appeals committee," said McIlvaine. "She said John told her to send our applications to the appeals committee. I’ve been waiting for further word from her, but have heard nothing more."

Jack Battaglia said he had decided not to fly his patriotic flag because he’d rather give the fine money to a charitable organization "than to the idiots here."

Numerous Evergreen residents who declined to be identified said they liked the flags which the two couples had put up.

"I think both of their flags were tasteful and patriotic," said one woman in her early 60s whose husband nodded in agreement.

"I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to fly them. They shouldn’t be forced to take them down or face that fine."

Evergreen resident Louis Giovannetti called the age-restricted development a "controlled" community.

"In a controlled community, you have to abide by the rules," he explained. "You can only fly American or state flags here, but not any other kind unless you get approval from our architectural committee. A lot of people think our homeowners’ association is too strict with its regulations. Anyone who’s lived in a neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of restrictions can have a hard time getting used to our rules."

Dori McIlvaine said the whole situation is making her sick.

"I don’t see anything wrong with flying our flag," she said. "Other people have told me that it was in good taste." 


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