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HLR A/B Board minutes

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JULY 27, 2010 (File: AB Board Min 07272010)
I. Call the Meeting to Order - Bob Levy called the meeting to order on July 27, 2010. Members present from the A Board: Bob Levy, President, Michael Hall, Rebecca Todd Hitt, James MacBride, and Jane McMillan. From the B Board, Garland Ford, Vice President, Larry Bowman, Treasurer, Jeanette Sterner, Secretary, and Jim Atchley. Rob James, General Manager of HLRA and Barbara Cooper, HLRA employee, were also present.
II. Residential and Other Sign Policy Recommendation. Rob said the idea behind the recommendations is to make the sign policy more specific so people cannot put up the "Prayer Signs." Rob said that actually the recommendations are to keep people from putting up any kind of sign for a long period of time. The biggest change is that signs can only be put up for 72 hours unless they are a property owner's address sign or a "for sale" sign. No handmade signs are permitted. The temporary signs (estate sales, garage sales or special events) are only permissible by acquiring a permit from the administration office. Rob said it is similar to the ACC approval process. Estate Sale and Garage Sale Signs must be obtained from the Association Office. A ten-dollar refundable deposit will be required. All other signs must be made professionally and must be approved before the event. Rob said that a person cannot buy a "garage sale" sign from a store because it will be picked up by Security; the signs must be those furnished by the office. Questions or statements made after Rob's explanation of his sign recommendation:
A. Bob Levy asked if signs placed in the yard have to be approved by the management. Rob said that is correct except for the property owner's sign on which a motto or slogan can be attached. A specific event sign has to be approved by the manager, such as the "Tour of Homes" signs. Rob has to see it first before it can be placed on the property. They can put such event signs 72 hours before the event and have to take it down right after the event.
B. Jeanette said she has seen different documents from Rob's office as to the size of the signs that can be placed on property. Some indicate 2 feet x 2 feet, some are the size of the usual "for sale", yet some are larger, say banner size. Jeanette wants to clarify that the main point Rob wants to make clear is that one has to show him the special event sign and get permission to place it on property. Rob said the sign should be 2 x 2. Larry said those guidelines are not part of the "Rules and Regulations." The guidelines are for us (B Board) to decide.
C. Jeanette said one of the problems she sees is that we seem to keep changing what people are allowed to do and this concern of many property owners has been going on since our first meeting this year. The changes negatively effect some of the polices people have enjoyed for a very long time, especially when it comes to special events and First Amendment rights of the people. Jeanette is concerned that even though many of these statements are "guidelines," Silverleaf's name is going to be associated with this too and may get a "black eye" from these restrictions placed upon the people. She stated that she has done some research on the issue of signs and how it relates to the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court rulings from 1942 to present. Plus, she has reviewed a recent legal case in Mineola, where there was an attempt not to allow political signs and the people won the right to have such signs on their property. Jeanette fears that we are on the verge of being against the Supreme Court rulings. Some of the issues that have been brought out during these various court hearings include having flags, political signs and religious signs. The Supreme Court has been very protective of homeowners' First Amendment rights to display political signs. In 1994 in Houston a Harris County district judge ruled that a deed restriction-forbidding residents from posting political signs or religious signs was an unconstitutional violation of freedom of speech. The judge stated, "...The U.S. Constitution does not end where deed restrictions begin." Many of these rulings that Jeanette has reviewed, in fact most, address homeowners associations and other private residential developments. The rulings include political and religious signs. Jeanette reminded everyone that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, it is the "Law of the Land," and we are going against the Court. Jeanette wants to know how the A Board can help us here today because we say we are "ruling on Rules and Regulations," when in fact we are ruling on more than that. If we think this will be over just because the Board says this is the restriction and people have to live by that. If we come up with restrictions that say certain signs can only be 8 by 11" or 2' x 2', we will have many react to these rules. I am suggesting that we allow people to have their freedom of speech, but require people to place their religious or political signs closer to the house. If we allow people to place their signs no more than 10feet from the house, they will not interfere with the right-a-way of vehicles or cause any other safety hazard as might by placing them close to the road.
D. Rob said that he has spoken with the HLRA lawyer and said we could do anything we wanted as long as we do it equally "across the board."
E. Bob Levy said he did not have the original restrictions in front of him, but he thinks the original restrictions for HLR did not allow signs. Jeanette said the GM had the approval right. She thinks the change over the years has been the interpretation of what are a person's rights.
F. Jeanette said she understands the requirement to remove the signs with 24-48 hours after the special event. In some cases, the 72-hour rule is understood, but people are already concerned about placing items in the yard during Christmas. You might say that is not what we are talking about; that is different. However, people have become concerned because we seem to keep adding to the restrictions, so what else is going to be effected.
G. Larry said he has a copy of the original restrictions and it states that no for sale signs or for rent signs or any other advertising signs were allowed. No such signs could be placed on property without the prior written approval from the developer.
H. Jeanette said the research of Court rulings indicate that stating location and number of signs is an acceptable resolution for cities, homeowners' associations and other restricted areas. We have proposed in the past that a property owner can obtain 5 garage sale or estate sale signs. That would be in line with the court rulings. The bottom line throughout these readings is the freedom of speech and that includes the freedom of religion. So again, can the A Board help with the intent of these rules because Silverleaf is going to have their name on it too. The Board is going to restrict First Amendment Rights. Is that what we want?
I. Rob gave the A Board some background as to why this issue has come up. There was a certain sign and the numbers of these signs were well over 100. He said they were made of temporary material. Jeanette said are made by a commercial vendor and for being up for the length of time, some into the summer, they have stood up very well for being a "temporary" material as Rob says. We can say all we want but a commercial vendor and that IS one of the requirements of the Rules make the signs and Regulations we want to pass today.
J. Jeanette proposes that signs be allowed to follow First Amendment Rights but follow the court guidelines by saying they have to be within a certain area by the house. In fact, some have place their Prayer signs within 10 feet of the house, because that suggestion was stated at an Open Meeting. I do not see how this bothering people? Those with personal signs have not placed them on "common property" only on their own personal property.
K. Jeanette said this election year is turning out to be a big event. If you decide to state some "rules" about political signs, you really are going to face some critical problems with freedom of speech rights. The State of Texas has passed laws saying you can have political signs, but have indicated where the signs can be posted. The State has also required the signs be picked up after the election or the State will remove them and charge a fee to the person's campaign headquarters.
L. Jim Atchley feels that the restriction the Board is proposing is less restrictive than the original. He personally has no problem with that.
M. Garland Ford said he has friends and relatives who live in homeowners associations. Though he does not have the rules in front of him, he understands they do not allow signs.
N. Jeanette said the homeowners' association at Lake Fork, which is a close example, does allow signs, but they are restricted on where they can place the sign. People have to pick up the signs 24 hours after the election. As stated above, most of the cases heard by the Supreme Court come from property owners who live in a homeowners' association. Some have been gated communities within a city. As I said, Mineola went through this and lost to the property owners. Again the Court has stated that restrictions cannot impede First Amendment rights.
O. Larry Bowman made the motion to accept the following proposal for the Residential and Other Sign Policy:
1. Property owners name, section and lot number and 911 addresses must be posted in a manner visible from the street and suitable for outdoor use. Logos or slogans may be included. Signs must be properly maintained, legible and made of permanent materials. No obscene or derogatory remarks are allowed. Also, no sign including the words builder, contractor, homes, company or words implying commercial activity are allowed.
2. For sale signs are allowed only when attached to the home. No for sale signs or real estate signs are allowed to be placed in the yard or by the roadway unless approved by the General Manager.
3. Temporary signs (estate sales, garage sales or special events) are only permissible by acquiring a permit from the administration office. Estate Sale and Garage Sale Signs must be obtained from the Association Office. A ten-dollar refundable deposit will be required. All other Signs can only be up for 72 hours and must be taken down immediately after the event. More detailed guidelines are available at the Administration Office.
4. Handmade signs will not be allowed.
5. No other signs are permitted.
Jim Atchley seconded the motion. Jeanette said she has an amendment to item number 5. "Other signs are permitted but cannot be located past 10 feet of the house. The sign cannot be larger than 2' x 2'. The sign must be reviewed by the GM and location be approved by the GM." Bob Levy asked how long can the signs be posted? Jeanette said that political signs can be posted 72 hours prior to "early voting" and must be taken down 48 hours after the election. Bob Levy said we should vote on the original motion then consider the amendment. All but Jeanette Sterner voted for the motion. Jeanette voted "nay."
Jeanette Sterner presented her amendment as stated above. She asked the Board how allowing 10 feet for people to express their Freedom of Speech is going to negatively affect the beauty of HLR. Bob Levy asks if there is a time limit for other signs? Garland Ford asked if there would be a time limit for the school signs, for example, "football jerseys." Jeanette said if we include those signs in this decision, the best suggestion would be that the school signs can be posted only from the first day of school to the last day of school. Rob asked if there would be a time limit for the "sign in question; the Prayer sign." Jeanette said this would take some thought to put a "time limit" on the Prayer sign. Rob asked about the "Cowboys" signs. Jeanette said that is the problem, where does it stop with these guidelines? Are we going to say now you cannot have the University of Texas flag or any other university flag flown? Rob said we do not have any rules against flags. Jim said he is opposed to the amendment because the posting of signs would devalue the property. He thinks it is impossible to state restrictions and to police. Jeanette said a fairly young couple bought a house at HLR and they had noticed the Prayer signs. They told their neighbor, who had a sign; he and his wife felt it made them think this was the type of friendly atmosphere where they wanted to live. The couple asked where they could buy a sign. The neighbor gave the couple a Prayer sign as a housewarming gift. Jeanette believes the difficulty of selling homes out here is because of the economy and not because of the signage.
Larry said he feels we should "table" the amendment until we can come up with a more formal amendment, which can answer some of these questions. Let's think through it a little more and come back next time we meet with another amendment. Rather than try to think up qualifications as we talk here. Bob Levy agreed with that recommendation. Jeanette said she would agree to that as long as we really do work on an amendment and not just say we will. She said she has been told that before, "...just go ahead and vote for this and we will talk about it later." Well, we do talk about it later and people come up with even more restrictions! Bob Levy said he really feels that the amendment needs further clarification and answer some of the questions raised. Otherwise, he would not be in favor of it. But, it is clear in the minutes that an amendment will be proposed with time lines and other clarifications. Jeanette tabled her amendment. Rob said what we voted on would be in effect until the new amendment is considered by the full Board.
III. Lake Rules Recommendation. The Board recommends regulations to control the use of the lakes at HLR. We have followed the rules posted by the lakes. Many of these rules are State regulations. We are going to work at doing a better job of publizing the rules, so property owners and guests will be aware of the lake rules. A motion was made by Larry Bowman and seconded by Garland Ford to accept the Lake Rules as written. The motion passed.
There was no further business. A motion was made Larry Bowman and seconded by Garland Ford to adjourn. The motion passed.
The meeting was recorded, cataloged by number 01262010 and available in the office of the administrative assistant by appointment.
Submitted by, Jeanette L. Sterner, Secretary