I see in the local popular media that the Hancock County prosecutor is telling a local homeowners' association that they need to back down from telling a Korean War veteran that he can't fly a flag from a flagpole in his yard. That's nice, right before the election...ought to give that fuckface prosecutor a nice boost for standing up for a flag-waving patriot.1
The problem as I see it, however, is that the HOA's rules aren't negotiable in court. As the perennial argument regarding ham radio antennae in HOA-controlled neighborhoods goes, when you signed on the dotted line (the many dotted lines) to close on your home, one of the things you signed was your agreement to abide by the HOA rules. If you didn't sign that document then in all likelihood you wouldn't have been permitted to close on the house (or, in my case some years back, condo).
So other than grandstanding, I don't see where this prosecutor is going to be able to do much more than rant and rave. I agree with him that the HOA are being assholes here, but the problem is not the one little rule that says "no flagpoles in yards". And yes, yes, I get that many years ago (in years that I was alive, in fact) there were plenty of "neighborhood associations" and "civic leagues" whose only real reason for existing was to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods. The Civil Rights Act pretty much put paid to that little conceit.2
No, the problem is HOAs themselves. HOAs are creatures of the general contractor and they are put in place to handle things that the city or county don't generally deal with and that the contractor doesn't want to be hung with forever after the subdivision is 100% sold. For instance, snow removal, garbage pickup, general maintenance of common areas, possibly ownership of a clubhouse, that sort of thing. As far as snow and garbage and road upkeep go, the subdivision might not even be in a city district to begin with, and the contractor may have received zoning approval only after agreeing to set up a HOA so that the city or county wouldn't have to worry about them. These are legitimate reasons to have a HOA, in my opinion; it is simpler and often cheaper to negotiate neighborhood-wide contracts for services rather than each householder contracting his own, and of course common property needs to be kept in good repair.
However, HOAs generally come with a generic set of bylaws and rules that are oppressive and (in my opinion) effectively constitute a "taking" of your right to own and improve property. While it may be appreciated that the association bylaws don't allow your hillbilly neighbors out back to run an informal auto repair and body shop in their garage and side yard (something that residential zoning rules generally frown on anyway), bylaws that disallow individualized lawn improvements such as flower beds, flagpoles, fountains, or even trees and mulching without association approval -- which may or may not be granted -- may not float your boat five or six years into your residence there. Oh, and that boat? Keep it in storage somewhere else, along with your RV, because it's unlikely you'll be allowed to park either of them in your driveway or back yard. And we'll not get into the whole "ham radio antennae and your HOA" business, other than to say that if HOAs weren't unreasonable, there wouldn't be a booming business in so-called "stealth" antennae among the ham radio set.3
The fact is that the vast majority of HOAs end up being little fascist neighborhood soviets with their spies out just waiting for you to violate the rules. It is often nearly impossible to vote the control freaks out of office, and even when you do that, it is usually impossible to simply let the HOA fold up and die.4 Because of that, it seems to me that the time is ripe not for prosecutors to be telling HOAs that they can't prevent veterans from flying flags, but for the state legislature to start legislating in favor of property rights and put the brakes on HOAs in general, spelling out in statute what they can and cannot do to their neighbors -- who, after all, have a sizeable investment in property that the HOA is trying to micro-control. Most folks who buy and live in HOA neighborhoods don't have the easy option of saying to hell with the HOA, I'm selling and going somewhere else. After all, they have to find a buyer, sell, find a new place to live, often negotiate purchase of a new home "pending sale of other property" because you can't have multiple FHA mortagages...and believe me, I'm still trying to sell an FHA-financed condo after moving out nearly nine years ago, while still trying to buy the house we're living in (the move was not because of the HOA, but because we needed a bigger place after we got married). Buying a house is not like buying a car and trading it every two or three years. You are sort of stuck for a while, unless you are independently wealthy, or unless your friend who just moved back to town is looking for a place to live and your mother is moving into senior living and is willing to let you live in the house till you can purchase it from her. The latter being our case.
Bottom line, the HOA problem isn't going to go away without legislation. The Hancock County fuckface prosecutor can grandstand all he wants, but in the end, all he's going to get is a specific HOA to back down in this one single case -- if that. Our legislators need to stand up for property rights and put limits on abusive HOA behavior.
UPDATE: Looks like the HOA backed down. I read the prosecutor's letter, and more or less I suppose his position is tenable, but IMHO, and all things being equal, I think the HOA should have fought him in court -- a judge might have seen a certain amount of prosecutorial overreach. Now we have an unresolved issue that will continue to be unresolved until either the courts rule on a different HOA issue, or the legislature finally acts to limit the power of HOAs in such matters.
The assholes who wrote the anonymous hate mails are funny. "Now that you have destroyed Fieldstone, are you going to pay my mother’s nursing care costs when she is unable to sell her home there?" Yeah, right. Try proving your initial proposition first, i.e., that one flagpole flying an American flag and a POW/MIA flag has "destroyed" the subdivision. And, "You have caused immeasurable harm." Prove it.
1 See here for why I consider the Hancock Country prosecutor a fuckface, and hope people vote for his opponent next week.
2 To this day I refuse to join or even go to the meetings of the civic league in this neighborhood, because they approached my father back in the early 1960s about that and he said, "What is the point of your association? What is your main reason for existing?" and they hemmed and hawwed and finally admitted that they were trying to keep the black man out. He told them to get the hell out of his house and off of his property.
While I understand that today's iteration of that civic league is more about neighborhood watch and that sort of thing, the very history of the organization prevents me from becoming involved with it. The least they could have done was changed the name. Anyway, it is not a HOA and can't tell me what I can and can't do with my property, so it can go fly a fucking kite.
3 And let's be clear here -- by "unreasonable" I don't mean that they don't allow a guy to have an 80 foot guyed tower with a dozen different antennae hanging off of it, topped with a hex beam good to 80 meters. I mean not allowing things like a 27-foot ground-mount vertical in your back yard, because your neighbor might see it and have a heart attack. Or getting bent out of shape because you have some nearly invisible wires hanging in the air outside that run down to your eaves and thence into your home. This is why there is a bill in Congress right now that seeks to extend the "reasonable accommodation" already made years ago for TV antennae and satellite dishes to include "reasonable" ham radio antennae.
4 Although I was talking to someone recently who told me about his defunct, abusive HOA that had been taken over and then left to rot on the vine for the five years or so of inactivity that caused it to be dissolved completely, when all of a sudden, right before time expired, one of his neighbors crawled out of the woodwork and started trying to find candidates to run for office. He told her to fuck off, and so did the rest of the neighborhood who were happy to have the fascists off their backs.