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.