Editor’s Note: The East Valley Tribune in the metro Phoenix area has been following an ongoing dispute between an RVer and the community of Gilbert, Ariz., a dispute not unlike many underway across the U.S. This is a recent editorial by that newspaper reviewing the matter.
Gilbert resident David Carrington’s two-year legal battle with his homeowners association over the parking of a recreational vehicle touches on a number of topics related to life in today’s East Valley.
There’s the classic tension over the growth and regulatory powers of modern homeowner associations (HOA). There’s the evolution in cultural tastes that prompt homeowners to buy more vehicles and outdoor devices even as property lots have shrunk and suburban homes have been pushed closer together. And there’s the often-misguided notion that neighborhood disputes can be fixed by asking a judge to decide who is “right” and who is “wrong,” when neither party really can claim the high ground.
As Tribune writer Blake Herzog has reported, Tone Ranch Estates sued Carrington in 2007 for leaving a travel trailer in his driveway too often. A year later, Carrington and the HOA agreed the rules probably weren’t consistent and a committee needed to clarify them. But the HOA expected Carrington to pay its legal fees, and a judge eventually ruled against him with a judgment of $100,000. Still, that judge understood this was a rather harsh outcome, as he mentioned he was issuing the order only to comply with precedent set by a higher court.
The “victory” of Tone Ranch Estates comes with its own price, as Carrington told Herzog he now parks the travel trailer on streets regulated by Gilbert instead of the HOA. While the trailer was in Carrington’s driveway, the HOA’s concern was largely a matter of aesthetics and visual appeal of the subdivision. Now, the travel trailer is taking away potential parking spots from other homeowners and their visitors and could even interfere with the passage of motor vehicles if placed in the wrong location.
The HOA board should be wondering if this result – rather than striking a compromise with Carrington early on – has better served the interests of its members. At the same time, Carrington could have saved himself a lot of money and emotional pain if he hadn’t pushed so hard to prove his rights trumped the HOA that he voluntarily joined.