Originally Published By Shaun Boyd in CBS Denver
Homeowners associations would no longer dictate what signs and flags residents can display under a bill that passed the state House and has initial approval in the Senate. James Genotte of Arvada is among those who testified in favor of the bill.
“We just wanted to show people of color that maybe some parts of this neighborhood is a safe place,” he said of a Black Lives Matter sign he placed in his yard.
Genotte says he had no idea his HOA had rules about signs.
“Certainly, many signs that I’ve seen around the neighborhood like ‘Lawn Care Done by so-and-so’ or ‘Happy Springtime.’ Those don’t seem to get taken down,” he said.
He says the HOA told him only approved signs were allowed and ordered him to take his sign down or face a $50 fine.
“I was pretty grumpy about it. So out of frustration I spray painted this on the back of my truck and they tried to cite me for that too,” he said.
Genotte’s story is hardly isolated. Denise Maes with the ACLU of Colorado says they’ve received dozens of complaints over the last year.
“When you have these homeowners associations actually regulating speech based on the content I think then we have an issue,” said Maes.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Rodriguez and Rep. Lisa Cutter, would allow HOA’s to regulate the size, number and location of flags and signs but not the content.
Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer is opposed to the bill. She insists contracts are between homeowners and their associations, not the government.
“When you purchased your home, and it was in that HOA, you agreed to the covenants,” Kirkmeyer explained.
But supporters say those covenants make it virtually impossible to change the rules. Maes admits the bill also allows speech some won’t like.
“That can happen in non-HOA neighborhood any day, maybe it probably does, and the sky hasn’t fallen,” she said.
While the First Amendment says the government can’t limit speech, Genotte says his homeowners association shouldn’t be allowed to do so either.
“It’s free speech issue, it’s like the bedrock of our country,” said Genotte.
It’s estimated half of all Colorado homeowners live in neighborhoods with HOAs. While most Republicans oppose the bill, some voted for it saying it was also about private property rights.