A homeowners association in New Albany has issued an apology to its residents and community after posting on social media a deadline for removal of yard signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Hampsted Village Homeowner's Association on July 15 posted on its Facebook page that Black Lives Matter movement signs placed on Hampsted Village homeowners' lots must be removed by 9 p.m. Sunday, July 26.
The homeowners association board posted an apology to the community shortly after 11 p.m. July 16 on its Facebook page. It said the Facebook post about the deadline should have been more "detailed and clear in this message."
"In our haste to share an intended 'public service reminder,' we posted a poorly worded message which lacked context and created significant miscommunication," the post said.
In a response to ThisWeek, the association provided an email on behalf of its members and said its original post was not intended to apply only to the Black Lives Matter signs and should have stated that it applied to signs for all events, celebrations and programs.
According to the association's website, members of the board of trustees are Ted Bernard, Alex Boytan, Stephanie Crosson, Lydia DeCarlo, Jeff Dittmer, Mic Gordon, Kevin Haas, Sally Higgins and Carl Marcelo.
The design guidelines for the association permit temporary signs supporting a family member, such as a congratulatory sign for a high school graduation, or a charitable event.
The guidelines say signs are permitted for "a reasonable period of time" and should be removed soon after the event.
The association said design guidelines are reviewed on an as-needed basis, or at least every two to three years.
The association added that self-compliance "has often been well observed without incident, but compliance actions have been required on occasion." It said association members review all relevant items under the same design guidelines.
"It has always been our goal to apply clearly stated, fair and consistent guidelines. We understand in some cases, other signs may have stayed up long after an event or celebration," the association said.
Compliance concerns typically arise when the association is notified by a community member or during periodic community compliance reviews, the association said. The association's property manager, Ohio Equities, contacts residents whenever a compliance issue is identified.
"We prefer to work directly with residents to ensure compliance, though that does not always ensure immediate action by the resident," the association said.
When asked what constitutes a "reasonable amount of time" for signs to remain in yards, the association in its email reply said, "Recognizing that people have busy lives and many other obligations, we have chosen to allow community members a reasonable period of time."
Gordon, who is vice president of the association, created the BLM signs for his neighborhood because he said he wanted to do something for the movement.
He said he also created a corresponding Facebook event scheduled July 26: A moment of silence to honor George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited the most recent movement.
Gordon, who declined to answer questions about homeowners-association rules and regulations because of his positions with the board, said he had 100 signs to give to his neighbors starting June 19 and has only seven left.
"I'm pretty proud of what's happened," he said.
Gordon said he plans to schedule a virtual town-hall meeting for the neighborhood to discuss racism and other social issues. The date and time haven't been determined.
Gordon said he has faced some backlash from neighbors on social media about his signs, and some people messaged him videos that contend the Black Lives Matter organization is a wing of the Democratic Party.
When asked about whether residents uncomfortable with the Black Lives Matter signs reached out to the association, the association's email reply said several community members have commented to a trustee or to Ohio Equities.
"No official record or count was maintained, though the number was not large and comments included both favorable support as well as some concerns," the board's joint response said.
Andrea Caron Wiltrout, a Hampsted Village resident, said she also heard residents were complaining about the signs.
Wiltrout, chairperson of the New Albany Board of Zoning Affairs and a member of the city's planning commission, said she respects the homeowners association's responsibility to regulate signs.
"We live in a very meticulously planned and maintained environment, and I'm not trying to change that," she said.
Wiltrout said she would suggest the association change its guidelines to allow signs showing tactful messages. Such signs, she said, are a way to show your community, as well as your children, what you believe in.
Wiltrout said she put one of Gordon's signs in her yard several weeks ago and was surprised the signs still were up because she knew the association's guidelines stipulated a temporary timeline for them. She also was surprised that other signs expressing school pride were still up in neighbors' yards, as well.
The association did not say when the signs expressing school pride were to be removed.