A Mesa homeowners association has apologized to the family of an 88-year-old widow after it tried to eject her 37-year-old grandson from living with her as a caregiver.
Sunland Village is also paying Virginia Campbell $12,700 for legal bills and emotional distress - and considering changes to its age restriction rules - after federal and state authorities intervened.
Sunland Village's board also needs to undergo training in federal and state fair housing laws - including legally required accommodations for disabled residents.
The dispute's end is a relief to Campbell's son Chuck, who said his mother couldn't afford to hire medical help but would do best in the community she's called home for 28 years.
"She just has too many memories there and if she were to leave there, she would just shrivel up," Chuck Campbell said Tuesday.
Sunland Village's board apologized to the family Tuesday. The resolution came about after a Tribune article in September, which got the attention of authorities of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Greg Campbell began living with his grandmother in 2006, after her husband of 65 years died. She drives a golf cart and plays bridge, but worried about falls she'd taken around the house and wanted someone around to drive her to medical appointments.
Greg Campbell went unnoticed until this spring, when the homeowners association informed the family of rules that children under 55 could live with a parent but not a grandparent. Campbell produced letters from doctors saying she needs an in-home caregiver, but the association asked for more detailed information. Eventually, the family agreed Greg would leave by year's end to avoid stiff fines. They later got an attorney, which triggered a flurry of letters between the sides.
The Campbells and the association later entered a conciliation process through the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The homeowners association didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the agreement.
Sunland Village HOA president David Groth said the dispute was unnecessary.
The board was trying to help Campbell, Groth said, with new rules that would let people like her grandson live in the community. New rules likely would have been in place by now if the Campbells hadn't gotten a lawyer, he said.
"It basically was a waste of time," Groth said. "If anything happened, I think the board has gotten a lot smarter in how we handle things. We understand the Fair Housing rules now."
Groth said news coverage cast the Campbells in a negative light and he said he felt bad about that. He didn't think the matter offered a lesson to other communities with age restrictions - other than one general principle: "To other boards, I'd say stick to your guns," Groth said. "Stick to your procedures."
The outcome wasn't a clear win, Chuck Campbell said, because of the stress his family went through. He's still upset at how things were handled.
"It shows that when the board arbitrarily takes the position that they know more than the medical people or when they arbitrarily tell you to get the heck out of someplace that you've lived in for 28 years, you have to at least find out what your rights are," Chuck Campbell said.
Virginia Campbell said she endured stinging comments from neighbors that she was wasting the community's money or that they didn't want to hear anymore about her situation. But she found most neighbors were supportive.
She's relieved her grandson can stay and help with daily activities or more urgent matters, like the two times he's had to drive her to the emergency room at night.
"Now when I go to bed at night, I feel like I can relax," Virginia Campbell said. "It's security to me."