Plainfield, Ind. —It has been 10 years since the war in Afghanistan started, and a Plainfield family thinks people are becoming desensitized. They posted a small sign of support in their yard for their son, who is in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. They were asked to take it down by their homeowner's association. Fox 59 is taking action to find out why.
"My son is in Afghanistan putting his life on the line and you guys are worried about a little sign in the front yard," said Glen Chilcote.
The issue involves a 12-inch tall sign that says "My Son Is Army Strong." Glen and Crystal Chilcote's homeowner's association in Plainfield sent a letter directing them to take it down. The HOA's covenants do not allow the sign. Glen said considering his 20-year-old son, Joshua, is fighting for our freedom, that's just petty. He said he is not going to follow the order.
"I don't plan to until my son comes home from Afghanistan, let's put it that way," said Glen.
The letter from the Auburn Meadows Property Owners Association states: The board does not wish to disrespect members of our military but must enforce the rule.
In a statement, the President of the Auburn Meadows Board of Directors, Bud Snodgrass, said they can't selectively enforce their position. He said rather than fighting the rules, the Chilcotes need to get the signatures of 82 lot owners so that the rules can be changed.
The letter sites property value as a reason for the mandate.
"I don't think it is bringing our property values down, it is our economy doing that, not our signs," said Crystal Chilcote.
Driving through the neighborhood, Fox59 found all varieties of signs for grand openings, soccer, home security systems and football. The Chilcotes said they have no problem with the other signs.
"They're just supporting their family and they're just showing pride in their family and their sons and their daughters if they have signs out about their extracurricular activity," Crystal said.
HOA management cited the covenants that all homeowners agree to when they move in. Signs are not allowed unless they're to advertise a sale, required by law, or to prohibit hunting and trapping.
The Chilcotes said people enforcing this small detail are out of touch with what is actually going on in the world and the war.
"It has just been going on for so long that people are totally disconnected unless they're directly involved with their family members being gone," Crystal said.
They said they miss Joshua terribly, worry for his safety and think a sign of their support is the least they can do.
"If they know somebody or had somebody in the military, they would have never done anything like this," Glen said.
The day after we visited, the Chilcotes got another letter. It indicated that if they don't take down the sign, they'll have to pay for the legal costs associated with enforcing the covenant.
The board president insists they're not anti-military, but that they have a legal process that they must follow.
Below is the full statement from the president:
The Indiana State constitution protects an individual's right to enter into a contract. Restrictive covenants are a contract signed at closing by all owners, which waive certain rights normally assigned to landowners. These covenants were prepared and filed with Hendricks County by the original developer of Auburn Meadows in 1997 and were agreed to by all current residents of Auburn Meadows. In the case of the Auburn Meadows covenants, the owners agree to waive the right to free speech, in regard to posting signs. Paragraph #16 of the attached covenants, is very specific about stating the ONLY signs that are agreed to be displayed in our community. So in terms of determining whether the sign is in violation or not, it becomes an issue of specifically what the sign DOES NOT SAY, not what the sign actually says. Although, paragraph #16's primary intent is to keep the neighborhood from being littered with signs, the very contractual obligation being violated by the homeowner also protects them from posted signs of protest from groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church or other offensive, profane, and otherwise objectionable postings.
In May of 2009 our board created and published to the association, a process to aid and assist any association member that wanted to make a change to our existing contract. This posted procedure actually simplifies the process and guides the petitioner thru (sic) the process of creating a petition to poll the membership about interest in making a rules change. It goes on to define at what point association resources would be expended to assist. The covenants require a 75% majority vote by our members, to make a change to the contract. The Board of Directors, being only nine members, does not represent enough votes to unilaterally make a change to our covenants. We are also unable to write any rules that make exceptions to the covenants, except in cases where the clause in question is ambiguous.
Both violation letters sent to this homeowner requested they contact our management company if they needed more information, or wanted to request appeal. To date the homeowner has not made any attempt to contact or discuss the violation, with either the management company, or the board of directors. Had the homeowner reached out to the board he would have found unanimous support for our military, and nine board members that would guide and assist him thru the process of making the formal request to change the covenants. Our first awareness of their decision to not comply with these notices was a phone call from Fox59, to our management company this Monday.