Homeowners win fight over political signs
The victors in a fight over the display of political signs in a homeowners-association-controlled neighborhood are claiming to have struck a blow for the First Amendment and free speech.
The defeated is holding to his guns, saying the issue has nothing to do with free speech.
Rather, it is a setback for the ability of private institutions to manage themselves, he said.
State law bans residents of homeowners associations that pay dues of less than $300 annually from placing political signs in their yards. Senate Bill 09-249, co-sponsored by
Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, and Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, removes that monetary stipulation and allows all HOA residents to place political signs in their yards.
The bill passed in both houses of the Legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
The bill grew from a neighborhood dispute in the Grand View Subdivision, northwest of Patterson and 28 roads. The Grand View Six, as the disgruntled homeowners came to be known, placed political signs in their yards during last year’s election cycle.
The signs were removed, per association rules, by Tom Lowrey, HOA president.
The HOA filed a lawsuit against the homeowners. That lawsuit will be moot if it is signed into law.
“In a session that was marked by high-profile fights on issues like jobs, oil and gas and the death penalty, the passage of this bill was a small, but important victory for the First Amendment,” Penry said.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the First Amendment; that is incorrect,” Lowrey said.
“If a private organization wants to limit signs, that has nothing to do with the First Amendment.”
Lowrey said the legislation is now interfering with the contract rights afforded to individuals in the U.S. and state constitutions.
“They are interfering with private institutions,” he said. “It is called impairment of contract.”
Regardless of whether he agrees with the law, Lowrey said he and the association will abide by the law and allow political signs in the future.
“HOA’s aren’t the private entities that Lowrey thinks they are,” said one of the more vocal members of the Grand View Six, John Kirby. “You cannot curtail free speech.”
Another of the Grand View Six, Jim Rozman, said he looks forward to putting a political sign in his yard without controversy.
Kirby said all homeowners associations in the state have a new level of protection from neighborhood boards.
“If the HOA can ban free speech and political speech, well, maybe they can ban guns, too,” Kirby said. “We have certain freedoms, and they are very sacred, and if you don’t exercise them, you lose them.”