Bureaucracy and Red Tape

"There are two kinds of people in the world: Nice, normal people and the members of HOA boards."

The story of a Prescott homeowners association demanding the eviction of an orphaned 15-year-old boy who moved in with his grandparents reaffirms one of my most deeply held convictions. 

There are two kinds of people in the world: Nice, normal people and the members of HOA boards.

The sad tale of Colin Clabaugh begins in California, in Riverside. Last year, when Colin was 14, the boy suffered an awful double whammy: First, his mother succumbed to organ failure, a complication from ongoing health problems. Two weeks later, Colin’s grief-stricken father committed suicide. 

It was around Christmas 2018 that Colin moved to Prescott to live with his paternal grandparents, Melodie and Randy Passmore. The Passmores have lived for the past four years in the Gardens & Courtyards at Willow Creek, a 55-and-over age-restricted community. 

May of last year was when the fighting and the letters from the HOA’s lawyer began to fly.

The community’s bylaws permit residents 19 and older. The Passmores have asked that Colin be allowed a special exception until then. 

As Melodie put it in a Facebook post a few days ago: “This isn’t a little whiney kid running up and down the street screaming and causing trouble. This is a young man who helps his neighbors and is rarely seen outside of going to and from school. … They allow 19-year-olds, so allowing him under special circumstances for a couple more years isn’t the end of the world.” 

The HOA’s response?

“(T)he Board will not extend its June 30, 2020 deadline at this time and expects the Passmores to be in compliance with the Association’s age restrictions by the deadline,” the HOA’s lawyer, Jason Miller, wrote. “If the Passmores would like to propose other options, the Board would be happy to consider those options. The Board is also willing to meet with the Passmores in person if necessary.”

Gosh, how magnanimous. 

Can’t you just picture the board, “happy” as clams at yet another three-hour meeting, cheerfully considering new ways to say no to a 15-year-old still grieving the loss of his parents? And talk about considerate? They’re even willing to meet with the family – in person! 

I don’t normally wish total septic failure on an entire community, but I’m willing to make an exception for these people. I mean, since they’re completely full of septic waste to begin with.

First off, the law that allows certain communities to create an age limit for residents typically mandates that 80 percent of the community’s homes be occupied by residents above that age limit. 

That leaves a buffer zone to accommodate special situations.

And if this isn’t a special situation, I don’t know what it is.

Second, there’s not a law made by man that shouldn’t be ignored under certain circumstances. Most of us understand and embrace that principle – hose of us who do not appear to run for HOA boards in overwhelming numbers. 

In 25 years of journalism, I’ve met HOA “leaders” obsessed with the timing of recycling bin retrieval, the height of Bermuda grass lawns and the exact shade of beige used to paint over stucco walls. 

Now the latest “issue” is a 15-year-old without parents who reportedly put up holiday lights for one neighbor and planted flowers for another. The lawyer for the Gardens & Courtyards at Willow Creek writes that some residents “may take action to see that the age restrictions are enforced.”

Allow me to suggest an action these small-hearted residents can take tonight before bedtime: Look in the mirror and ask yourself if this is really the type of human being you are, a person who values rules over compassion for a struggling teenage boy?

(2) comments


David, THINK before you start writing something you know nothing about. Your "deeply held convictions"? what is that? What about all the other HOA members who purchased their properties because there was a strong HOA in place, what about them? this would include the Passmores.

Yes, this is a sad story and that is too bad but rules are rules. If you feel so strongly about this maybe Colin can come live with you and the problem will be solved.[thumbup]


I'm siding with the HOA on this one. People move to those communities exactly because of those restrictions. If the grandparents find themselves in a situation where a 55+ community is no longer the right choice for them, perhaps they should look into moving to a more family-friendly neighborhood rather than put all of their neighbors at risk of losing the age restrictions of this neighborhood.

Mr. Leibowitz, what's your solution - have everybody else move so these grandparents aren't inconvenienced?

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