Mill Creek Grande HOA objects to wheelchair ramp for disabled child

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Judy Thomas, Kansas City Star, continues to hear from homeowners all over the country living in HOAs. While a few of her readers think their HOA is well-managed, most residents have more horror stories to share.

The following article and video featuring Julie and Irl Copley of Olathe is a perfect example of the arrogant attitude that infects so many HOA boards, causing emotional turmoil for its HOA residents.

The Copleys are parents to 10 children, including a disabled foster child who has lived with the family for more than a year. The 11-year-old boy is blind, deaf, has cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair. Several months ago, members of the family’s church helped to build a wheelchair ramp in front of their house.

However, Mill Creek Grande HOA objected to the wheelchair ramp for purely aesthetic reasons.

Of course, there are fair housing issues at stake here. The HOA must accommodate residents with disabilities. But it appears the HOA Board is displeased because the Copleys did not obtain approval for the design and placement of the ramp approved before it was installed.

HOA President Don Payne insists the family either remove the ramp entirely or install a landscape screen to block the ramp from view. I wonder how much that will cost the homeowners?

There are several other details to the story, including a previous lien filed over the Copleys’ mailbox, but check out some of Payne’s comments, in the most recent KC Star HOA article.

Star series sparks avalanche of HOA horror stories, plus some plaudits

Julie and Irl Copley have had some minor run-ins with their homeowners association since building their brick house on a spacious two-acre lot in Olathe 14 years ago.

But nothing like the clash over a ramp they recently built for a disabled foster child — without first getting approval from the association.

Now the Copleys and the HOA are at a standoff.

In a June 3 email to the Copleys, HOA President Don Payne wrote, “Goodwill is one of those things that you build up over time with your neighbors. Ill Will is the reciprocal, it grows when you generally ignore the agreed upon rules and proceed without any concern for neighbors.”

Payne told the Copleys that the ramp could have been placed in their garage, but “you choose to have a business in the garage that disallows that path as an access point.”

“You also choose to invite a child into your home that would require a ramp eventually,” he said. “I applaud your heart in this matter. But your accumulative choices have caused you to ignore your covenants and neighbors to further your own choices.”
Read more here:

In other words, how dare the Copleys choose to share their love and compassion with a disabled child in need of a home. Now they have simply ruined neighborhood curb appeal with their wheelchair ramp. How selfish of them.

Wow. These harsh words certainly point out a glaring flaw in the social structure of homeowners’ associations.

HOA policy begins from a mindset that is self-focused vs. other-focused.

Think about it.

In a genuine community, each person is focused on understanding and caring for others.

But in HOAs, with restrictive covenants and an obsession for “protecting property values,” the mindset starts from the assumption that what your property looks like, and how you choose to use it, affects my property value. Therefore, I (collectively we) have the right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your private property. And in many cases, we even have the right to impose financial and social penalties if one of our neighbors fails to meet an acceptable standard.

Do you see what has happened?

We’ve turned logic upside down, and now we automatically label our neighbor as selfish the minute her property isn’t “show ready” and “perfect” according to some vague or arbitrary standard.

At one time, most Americans would have regarded imposing petty standards and meddling with someone else’s property and personal life as selfish.

Now, I’m not against rules of civility or “house rules” for multifamily properties. Some rules of consideration are necessary for people to live together in harmony. But the HOA industry, led by trade group / political lobbying organization Community Associations Institute (CAI) often conflates restrictions that protect health, safety, and quiet enjoyment of residents with restrictions based on “aesthetics as an economic issue.”

As if economic value of one’s home were the singular, most important value of all.

What about social values? What about the value of human life? What about the value a community places on its residents, including parents with children, older adults, and people with disabilities? What about the value in simply leaving residents alone, without micromanaging every aspect of their private property and even their lifestyle choices?

The core concept of Association Governed Housing, “protecting property values,” promoted for the past 5 decades by the industry with CAI at the helm, is decidedly self-focused. Combined with excessive HOA board powers and almost no accountability, this industry-created public policy is a perfect recipe for social conflict rather than genuine communities.

2 thoughts on “Mill Creek Grande HOA objects to wheelchair ramp for disabled child

  1. DJ, interesting response. A bit of a personal attack. But typical of the response that homeowners and residents receive from their overzealous board members and certain neighbors that seek to control or harass unpopular neighbors with the intended goal of forcing them out of their home.

    Of course I understand CC&Rs. Just because CC&Rs exist, that doesn’t make them reasonable or even legal. And certainly, the people interpreting CC&Rs — often written in vague legalese — are the board members who haven’t read them, or the HOA attorney who benefits from creating a legal conflict resulting in billable hours. Plus, those CC&Rs are subject to change as a result of dubious membership votes, under questionable and undemocratic voting processes.

    The issues at hand here is this: should an HOA have the right to prevent homeowners from making disability accommodations to their property — not with an outright ban, but by creating onerous and costly conditions for “allowing” a wheelchair ramp to which the family is entitled under Fair Housing Law.

    The HOA’s “choices” to the homeowners are impractical – moving the ramp to the garage where there isn’t room – or prohibitively costly – installation of expensive landscape plants to screen out the ramp.

    Your assumption that this family has been “a problem from the start” only serves to illuminate the true purpose of the HOA board in this case – to run these homeowners out of the neighborhood, so they won’t have to feel uncomfortable around their special needs children and large family that includes adopted and foster children.

    You have it all wrong. It is the fundamental structure of the HOA, and the people that lead this board that have been a problem from the start.

  2. You obviously don’t understand CC&R’s. It’s a contract that ones signs when they buy that they follow the Association rules. They can’t arbatraley decide what they will or will not follow.

    It sounds like they have been somewhat of a problem from the start.

    The BOD is within their rights to address this issue with them not to mention they are required to do so by the CC&R’s. By the way the CC&R’s are approved the State

    It’s folks like you that cause problems because you believe you are above the law

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