HOAs by the numbers
Yard signs are nothing compared with the political statement on this Texas family’s lawn.
“BETO” is painted in gargantuan white letters directly on the grass in front of the family’s stately brick home in Katy, Texas, photos show. Peeking out from behind some shrubbery in the background is a more traditional — and modest — yard sign that also supports Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat running to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas next month.
Shannon Bennett, 48, painted the sign with her husband Sunday night, she said in a phone interview with McClatchy. They came up with the idea with their children, and then Bennett and her husband bought the paint while the kids mowed the lawn in preparation.
But before the family had even finished the paint job, the president of the Chesterfield Community Association drove up and confronted them over the political message, Bennett said.
“He was very hostile,” Bennett said. “This is truly a shock, that they became so angry.”
Within days, the family got a notice in their online homeowner association (HOA) portal telling them they violated the suburban Houston community’s landscaping code with the painted sign and had to remove it, Bennett said.
Bennett said she and her husband researched the state rules before painting it, “so we truly believed we weren’t violating anything.”
“It’s grass, right? You just mow it off, and it’s gone. It’s so temporary,” Bennett said. “The code that he was telling us we’d violated is the landscaping code. I said, ‘This isn’t landscaping, it’s a temporary design on the ground.’”
The HOA disagrees.
The Chesterfield Community Association said Thursday that its “rules are consistent with state law and Section 202.009 of the Texas Property Code, in that it prohibits political signs that are attached to plant material. The association provided an owner a notice letter giving them an opportunity to cure their violation,” KTRK reports.
Bennett described the violation notice she received as confusing and “clearly written in a fit of rage.” It included three different time-frames, she said — one requiring them to get rid of the painted message within days, another by Oct. 30 and third saying they have 30 days to appeal the decision.
“We’re going back and forth between doing nothing, and replying and requesting a specific answer as to what code we violated,” Bennett said.
Bennett said she also believes there’s a double standard in the neighborhood.
Bennett said that just houses away from her residence is another home with a sign in the front yard that reads: “I stand for the anthem, and kneel for the cross.” But that sign has been allowed to remain up, despite the fact that only political signs are allowed by the HOA, she said. (It’s a rule she said she learned about firsthand last year, after she was forced to take down a “kindness is everything” sign.)
Steve Jordan, chief risk officer at the HOA company in charge of Chesterfield Community Association, said the violation isn’t about politics, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“This is not a violation for them placing a political sign; it’s the type of signage that they’ve actually placed on their property being an extremely large painting on the actual grass of their front yard,” Jordan said, according to the newspaper. “It is a landscaping and signage violation. It has nothing to do with it being a political signage. Any type of signage of that nature would be in violation.”
Regardless, Bennett was surprised. She said she painted a similar sign in support of Obama in 2008 when she lived in Austin.
“I did that to combat sign stealing, and it actually improved my relations with my neighbors,” Bennett said. “It was a positive community experience.”
It’s also how she came up with the idea for the BETO painting a decade later.
“My husband — who is not a Democrat and who doesn’t typically vote Democratic — does support Beto, so we were trying to come up with a way to display our choice creatively,” Bennett said.
The election will be held Nov. 6.
No matter who wins, the painted grass will still be alive — and it will have grown over by then, Bennett said.