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Homeowners say association is violating their freedom of speech over signs

2012-10-21T23:32:00Z 2012-10-24T09:06:11Z Homeowners say association is violating their freedom of speech over signsBy JAMIE MUNKS—jmunks@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
October 21, 2012 11:32 pm  • 

QUEENSBURY — Less than a month from Election Day, political campaign signs are a common sight on street corners and in front yards, but in some places, the plastic signs endorsing one candidate over another create issues.

A single political sign stuck in a grassy strip of land between Peter and Peg Jasinski’s home and Hudson Pointe Boulevard has been causing issues between the couple and the Hudson Pointe Homeowners Association for about two years. The issue came to a head last month when the couple filed a lawsuit against the association for what they maintain is infringing on their freedom of speech, when the association began fining them $5 per day.

“We’re up to $1,400 or $1,500,” Peter Jasinski said last week of the fines from the homeowners association.

On Wednesday, a “Doheny for Congress” sign, endorsing Republican Congressional Matt Doheny, sat next to the road in front of the couple’s home. That’s the largest of the signs they have, but there are others, Jasinski said.

The couple bought their retirement house on Hudson Pointe Boulevard 13 years ago. Peter Jasinski describes them as politically active and registered Republicans, and said it’s a “tradition” to put out political signs around elections.

The problems started in 2010 when the pair put out a campaign sign for U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. The Jasinskis received a letter in October 2010 from an attorney representing the association, which said if the couple didn’t pay the fine for displaying that sign, the

association could put a lien on their house for the amount owed and could foreclose on the property.

The Jasinskis then hired attorney Leah Everhart, and when they didn’t receive letters from association or attorney for several months, assumed the issue was dropped. But then, the letters from the association and their attorney started again last year.

In the lawsuit, the Jasinskis contend requiring the political signs be taken down is a violation of their right to free speech, and they’re seeking the lien on their home be removed and the fines be dropped. They contend that the grassy spot where they place the political signs is in the road right-of-way and is owned by the town of Queensbury, so the association can’t regulate that area.

“We want a resolution — we thought this was resolved in 2010,” Peg Jasinski said last week. “That’s the goal, so this is over and we don’t have a situation where they can come back again.”

The lawsuit was filed last month in State Supreme Court in Warren County. Arthur Siegel, an attorney with the Bond, Schoeneck & King law firm, which is representing the homeowners group, declined to comment on the case last week. The association has until Nov. 9 to respond to the lawsuit.

Everhart, the attorney for the couple, said there was a similar case in New Jersey where a homeowners association “was acting very much like Hudson Pointe’s association.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court case decided earlier this year held the state’s Constitution allowed the property owner to put political signs on his own property.

“In that state, there was a difference between regulating and banning the signs, and we think that’s applicable here too,” she said.

The association’s sign regulation, which states except for signs put up by or with the permission of The Michael’s Group, the developer, “in connection with the initial marketing of homes, no additional sign or other advertising device of any nature shall be placed for display to the public view on any home, in any window of any home, on any lot or other portion of the property ...”

Included in documents with the lawsuit are photographs Jasinski took of other signs in the development, including a “Keep off Grass” sign and for sale signs. The association also regulates such things as clotheslines, where boats can be kept within the 91-home development and where sheds can be built. In other cases where issues have come up, Jasinski said the property owner either gives in or some kind of compromise is reached.

“I’m pretty convinced we’re going to win this, but why the association board is digging in their heels on this, I don’t know,” Peter Jasinski said.

Nina Amadon, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, said she’s not aware of any other such issues in the region between homeowners and homeowners associations having issues over political lawn signs.

Jasinski said he contacted town officials about the matter and was told the town “doesn’t touch” political signs and wouldn’t get involved in a dispute with a homeowners association regulations.

Some municipalities do regulate where political signs can be placed. The Lake George Town Board recently passed a temporary sign ordinance, which still needs to be approved by the Planning Board.

At the corner of Stone Schoolhouse Road and Route 9N, near where Supervisor Dennis Dickinson lives, temporary signs proliferate, he said.

“People love to put signs up there,” Dickinson said. “They’re there all summer and all fall and it’s annoying.”

The town’s ordinance says temporary signs, such as political signs, and small yard signs that landscaping and construction companies often put at the properties where they’re working, cannot be in the public right of way.

If the homeowners have given permission for a political candidate to put their campaign sign in the yard, then the town won’t necessarily strictly adhere to a rule signs can’t be within 25 feet of the center of the road. If the person didn’t give permission for the sign to be there, it will be removed, and if it’s placed right next to the road, officials may ask the property owners to move it back, Dickinson said.

“That’s an opinion call by who is enforcing it,” he said.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(33) Comments

  1. independentguy
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    independentguy - October 27, 2012 2:29 pm
    when you enter into an agreement, it is a contract. the constitution specifically mentions that contracts will not be impaired by government. legal contracts that is. i think the dems and repubs are hypocrites anyways. they monopolize the political process and shut everyone else out. that is violation free speech too. but, it is ok because they make the rules.
  2. something is wrong
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    something is wrong - October 25, 2012 9:31 am
    This mess of signs portrays the state of our government. Just a mess!
  3. Dave
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    Dave - October 25, 2012 7:17 am
    BOB, THANKS FOR THE INFO. DAVE
  4. Jonny
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    Jonny - October 24, 2012 10:33 am
    You can sign away your constitutional rights. You can't sign a contact that breaks the law, it's a void contract. Giving up your "constitutional rights" is not against the law. All our military men and women do not have the same constitutional rights we citizens share. Caveat emptor. If you want to live in an exclusive community with rules, then play by the rules. I chose not to buy a house in a neighborhood with an association. Sell your house or get rid of the signs... Did you not read the contract and review all the restrictions on the property?
  5. Bob1234
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    Bob1234 - October 23, 2012 7:54 am
    Dave, using all caps is the least effective way of making text more easily-read on a computer screen. I've never seen it recommended as an accessibility solution. It's better to do things like increase the default size of text on your screen, use the Windows magnifier function that's built-in to PC software, enlarge the mouse pointer, or changing the screen resolution to increase or decrease size and clarity of text and images so it's more readable.
  6. DWC121
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    DWC121 - October 22, 2012 11:04 pm
    The association’s sign regulation, which states except for signs put up by or with the permission of The Michael’s Group “in connection with the initial marketing of homes, no additional sign or other advertising device of any nature shall be placed for display to the public view on any home, in any window of any home, on any lot or other portion of the property ...”

    I'm going to push the envelope - Most everyone in this development is in violation if they have a curbside mailbox. The mailbox has a number or name on it. Technically those names and numbers are signs. And don't even _think_ about putting a "Tot Finder" sign on the bedroom window for firefighters! These examples might not be the intent of the rules, but rules are often made without taking everything into consideration.
  7. Report Abuse
    - October 22, 2012 8:58 pm
    Editors,
    Dot2 & Atheis have the prize for comments of the 1st 25 here.

    Question: Editors @ "TPS:" If the pic/sign was pro Owens would we have the usual gaggle of GOP rants from the live poor - vote rich, Joe 6-pk, self-punitive hardcore right wingers yelping UNFAIR?

    (I'm an Owens voter, not rich, semi-literate & not uneducated... well, not uncredentialed anyway.) Can I get a color pic, P. 1, of my lawn sign for equal Owens exposure though there's no rule against such dispays here?

  8. Dianalicia
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    Dianalicia - October 22, 2012 5:59 pm
    LOL...I can't believe some of the comments here. If you want to live in a community that restricts campers and boats and ugly signs...buy in a HOA with restrictions. If you don't...don't buy in an HOA. It's as simple as that, folks! You have certainly lived there long enough to know what your bylaws permit and don't permit! As past president of our HOA, I can tell you that being a board member is a totally thankless job!!! Dave thinks it a power trip...lol...that's the last thing it is, Dave. The Board tries to uphold the restrictions and bylaws that you bought into. It's a VERY difficult job to be fair to everyone and believe me, it creates sleepless nights and many times,makes enemies out of neighbors. You chose to live in a restricted development. So, either live with it or move out. As for the Board members who are not abiding by the bylaws, if you feel you can't get a fair shake...run for the Board next time around. I would bet my next check that you won't..You'd rather complain.
  9. Dave
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    Dave - October 22, 2012 5:13 pm
    HOW MANY OF YOU FOLKS REMEMBER THE SONG AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SERIES CALLED "WEED"?? WHEN I HEAR OF HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS THAT COMES TO MIND. ORMAYBE THE STEPFORD WIVES. I GUESS THEY DONT LIKE ENERGY EFFICIENT GREEN CLOTHESLINES EITHER.
  10. Dave
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    Dave - October 22, 2012 5:09 pm
    CAPS ARE USED FOR US SENIORS WHO HAVE TROUBLE READING LOWER CASE. IT IS NOT "SHOUTING". THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING.
  11. feckerpead
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    feckerpead - October 22, 2012 4:54 pm
    Amen to that brother! What I can't believe is how anyone would agree to something like this in the first place and put a signature to it. Very foolish. Then again, in another 10 yrs the entire US will be just like this. I bet our forefathers would be so proud of us right now...
  12. dot2dot
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    dot2dot - October 22, 2012 4:44 pm
    I bet our couple who values freedom of speech so highly is on a Do Not Call list to protect their privacy. And I also would bet they are more than happy to have 'rules' preventing the storage of RV's and boats. In fact I would suspect the 'rules' were one of the plus factors in choosing to live there. I know I would welcome some similar rules in my neighborhood! Laughable that they have to resort to this to get attention... but, of course, in comes The Post Star looking for another all-important story. Actually not sure who I feel more sorry for... The attention deprived J'ski's, the Post Star, or the 20 people (and I'm one of them) who have nothing better to do than post a reply here.
  13. feckerpead
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    feckerpead - October 22, 2012 4:38 pm
    lol, and they couldn't have one of those
  14. sag
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    sag - October 22, 2012 3:24 pm
    While I do agree with you that people have a right to do whatever they wish with their land or home, I still think that these endorsement signs stuck in lawns are just plain trashy and the more you have on your lawn, the trasher it is. I like to look at landscaping but not someone's political preferences.
  15. Atheist1
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    Atheist1 - October 22, 2012 3:08 pm
    A tradition??? No, it's an eye sore and obnoxious. These signs are everywhere and do nothing for actual votes. Garage sale signs serve more of a purpose.
  16. Maries
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    Maries - October 22, 2012 3:06 pm
    plenty of homes for sale all over the region. If the Jasinski's don't like having a homeowner's association or abiding by the rules, the Jasinski's should have purchased their home elsewhere.



  17. DCSmith
    Report Abuse
    DCSmith - October 22, 2012 1:02 pm
    Lesson learned. Read before you sign. ALWAYS!!! Laws are laws and regulations are....... People cannot create their own rules as they see fit. Pay the fine and move to another house out in the country.
  18. ob
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    ob - October 22, 2012 11:57 am
    I don't understand why people sign contracts and then decide that the rules don't apply to them. I would challenge the homeowners assocation to modify the rules to only allow the signs to be out a short amount of time to abate any further problems, perhaps even charge a fee. The signage does not change one vote and look disgusting anyway.
  19. billybobskiff
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    billybobskiff - October 22, 2012 11:42 am
    in writing or not it violates the 1st ammendment and thus makes that part of the contract void.
  20. Grammy14
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    Grammy14 - October 22, 2012 11:30 am
    This homeowner's association allows some people to violate the rules, while going after others. All rules and violations should be treated equally and all homeowners should be treated equally, no double standard. We have a shed errected on the side of a driveway, not in the rear yard, a boat stored at the end of a driveway which is not supposed to be seen from the street, ( by a board member) Fencing must be from the back corners of the home, there are several violations here,(one by the president of the board.) This board needs to be reasonable and not spend the homeowners dues on silly lawsuits. There are better ways to manage the finances.
  21. Bob1234
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    Bob1234 - October 22, 2012 11:09 am
    Apart from a question of the legality of a homeowner's association regulating political lawn signs, I think there's another, separate, question here:

    That is, what are the ethical implications for a homeowner agreeing to abide by an association's regulation, and then flouting it? The Jasinskis, along with their neighbors, apparently agreed to the restriction on lawn signs as a condition of owning property in their neighborhood. Even if erecting lawn signs turns out to be legal in this case, is it the right thing to do, given the commitments, and expectations, that all the homeowners' in the association have?

    I don't necessarily think there's a clear answer here, but I do know that just because an action is legal doesn't automatically make it the right thing to do.
  22. NeverHome
    Report Abuse
    NeverHome - October 22, 2012 10:44 am
    I agree with you however if as they say other houses in the community have signs in the yard and are not being treated the same way, there is a problem. If your going to go after one, you better be going after all or you will lose every time.
  23. woodchuck2
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    woodchuck2 - October 22, 2012 9:52 am
    This is a perfect example of what happens in a socialist society! Those around you control you and your property, not you. I have worked for Associations and i can tell you i will never live in one. Bunch of yahoo's on a power trip controlling everyone around them and those who are in favor are either on the same power trip or they want someone else to do everything for them, the association board becomes their parent so to speak. I'll be damned before someone tells me what color my house has to be, what roof i must have, if i can own a truck, if i can own a boat, if i can own a shed, if i can have a birthday party for a child or wife, when i have to do my lawn care, etc. We have a name for folks who love associations, we call them sheeple, now get back in line!
  24. Bob1234
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    Bob1234 - October 22, 2012 9:16 am
    Note to commenters: There's no need to SHOUT by using all caps. We get your point, even on lower case....
  25. sag
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    sag - October 22, 2012 9:01 am
    I don't know why the couple is risking their home for the sake of "free speech". Pay the $5 fine in the beginning and be done with it. I went out for a walk this past Saturday and there are some yards in my neighborhood with as many as four signs in their front yard and it just makes the neighborhood look trashy ... not why I buy a house or move to a neighborhood. If someone wants to endorse one candidate or another do it with a bumper sticker or at the polling place.
  26. Dianalicia
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    Dianalicia - October 22, 2012 8:36 am
    We live in another Michael's Group development and moved her BECAUSE of the restrictions! I certainly hope that the Jasinski's don't win this fight. There are other ways to announce your endorsements without having to include this view for the neighborhood!
  27. Bob1234
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    Bob1234 - October 22, 2012 8:26 am
    This is an interesting situation. The Jasinskis, as well as their neighbors, voluntarily agreed to live in a neighborhood with restrictions on signs.

    Is it fair for Hudson Pointe residents to be exposed to political signage when they chose to live in a neighborhood that promised relief from visual pollution? Or, is it fair for a homeowner to be prevented from erecting lawn signs on private property (a long-time accepted form of political speech), even if they agreed in writing to abide by the neighborhood association's restrictions?

    Whose rights take precedent here -- the rights of the neighbors to live in an area that's not visually polluted, or the right of homeowners to express their political support through lawn signs on private property?
  28. ganondagon
    Report Abuse
    ganondagon - October 22, 2012 8:03 am
    if the sign is in the queensbury right of way, queensbury should be removing it !!

    good grief, jasinski's, get a life...........look around and find a worthwhile cause.........not
    your own personal agenda !!
  29. chapmanooka
    Report Abuse
    chapmanooka - October 22, 2012 7:37 am
    If one decides to reside in a "particular community" with rules for keeping people in line or in charge..then it is just too bad you folks chose the wrong neighborhood....rednecks are not allowed to participate with the regular folks...shuld have supported someone less obviously 1%
  30. creeker721
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    creeker721 - October 22, 2012 7:37 am
    Love reading about these knuckleheads who are in a Homeowners Community,, know what the rules are and then start whining about them when THEY don't want to follow them. I personally think there are enough of those ugly signs on the roads and why anyone would want to look at them all over their neighborhood property eludes me. Bravo to the Homeowners Assoc! New rule of thumb... if you or your campaign have that much money to put up that many signs (some are HUGE) then you are either pretty well off or someone is pretty anxious to get you in office .. just sayin'!!!!! Post Star.. you need to do more important reporting than this twaddle.... do some fact checking on local races claims... now THAT I would love to read.
  31. Dave
    Report Abuse
    Dave - October 22, 2012 6:51 am
    THE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION IS WAY OFF BASE HERE. AMERICANS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS TRUMP ANY NONSENSE THAT SOME ZEALOUS, MISGUIDED GROUP MAY THROW OUT THERE. I HOPE THE JASINSKIS COLLECT A LARGE FINANCIAL GAIN FROM THE ASSOCIATION AS WELL.
  32. JennyGirl
    Report Abuse
    JennyGirl - October 22, 2012 6:36 am
    Home owners associations are always full of snobs anyway. I think people have a right to do whatever they wat with their land that the people own. So long as whatever they do is on their property.
  33. politicoQB
    Report Abuse
    politicoQB - October 22, 2012 2:48 am
    It's in writing. Pay the fine or go back to Jersey.

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