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Thursday, March 17, 2011

 

Parents Fined $1,650 For Child's Noisy Play

Lake Highlands parents fight $1,650 fine over toddler’s noisy play
 
 
Photo: Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photograper
 
Peter Ure and wife Abigail hold their 20-month-old son Sawyer whom their home owners association blame for being too noisy.
 

SCOTT FARWELL

Staff Writer

Dallas News

16 March 2011 10:03 PM 

 
Noise, apparently, is in the ear of the beholder.

Consider this dispute between neighbors at a Lake Highlands condo complex.

Peter and Abbey Ure live in an upstairs unit at Woodlands II on the Creek with their tow headed 20-month-old son Sawyer — who, like most toddlers, seems to have Pavarotti-strength pipes and energy to burn.

Downstairs, an adult couple says the smashing and bashing is enough to make their recessed lights rattle.

This week — after months of phone calls, tense negotiations and a hearing before their homeowners association — the Ures received a letter from their association and a $1,650 fine for 33 alleged incidents.

The letter stated that Woodlands II was built as an adult community without play areas. Later, the letter stated the fine would be reduced to $250. But next time, if the noise continues, the Ures will be charged the full $50 per incident.

“They are making it unaffordable for us to live in our home because of our child and it’s going to force us to leave,” said Abbey Ure.

The young couple decided not to go quietly. This week, they made their case to reporters and refused to pay the fine.

“It got to the point where I was freaking out trying to stop Sawyer every time he ran across the floor,” she said. “I hated that because I feel like children need to move — not that they need to be crazy or rambunctious and disturb people. But I feel like it’s an important part of their development.”

The Ures purchased their two-story condo at the 104-unit complex about seven months ago. After the noise complaints, they moved Sawyer’s toys to the top floor of their home and attempted to pad their downstairs floor from noise.

The Ures, who have complained about cigarette smoke permeating their home from their neighbor’s condo below, suggested a structural problem may be responsible for the noise.

Bob Blend, an attorney for the Garland-based HOA, Alternative Management Group Inc., said the Ures will be sent a letter that offers to suspend the fine and hold another hearing. But he said that doesn’t mean the decision will be reversed.

“Everybody’s got to follow the rules and the question is, ‘Are the rules reasonable and are they fair and are they fair to both sides?’” he said. “That’s what the board has to decide.”

This is not the first time the HOA has produced headlines.

In 2009, the association sent a letter to Vietnam veteran Frank Larison, threatening to tow his car if he didn’t remove or cover up its Marine Corps decals. A letter from the management group described the bumper stickers as “advertisements.”

After Larison enlisted an attorney — and after a barrage of critical media reports — the HOA backed down.

The Ures’ downstairs neighbors said this case illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum: an association enforcing commonly agreed-on covenants.

They released a written statement but asked that their names not be used.

“We tried to resolve this in a neighborly fashion but all we ever received from the Ures was empty promises about controlling the noise level,” the e-mail read. “When moving into an HOA, everyone accepts the fact that certain concessions and sacrifices need to be made by everyone. …

“This is simply a case in which the Ures feel like they don’t have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does.”

Abbey Ure said the noise coming from their condo is reasonable. She called the association’s rules arbitrary and capricious.

“It basically states that you can be fined for anything annoying or disturbing or objectionable or harmful, which can basically be defined as anything they say,” she said.

Blend said the HOA is hoping for de-escalation.

“Everybody has to take the step of putting themselves in the other person’s shoes,” he said.


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