Statue pits family against homeowners association

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BY KORIE WILKINS • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER •Post a CommentRecommendPrint this page E-mail this article Share A Novi family is in a dispute with their homeowners association again — this time over a Virgin Mary statue.
The Samona family made national headlines in 2005 when they disagreed with the Tollgate Woods homeowners association over a nativity scene on their front lawn. After media attention to the issue, the association backed down. The family still displays the scene at Christmas.

But Joe Samona, 19, said his Chaldean family is being targeted again for the statue — which has been in their front yard since 2004. He said his parents, Farouk and Batoul Samona, got a letter Wednesday from the association, saying the statue violated the bylaws.

Joe Samona said his family has retained an attorney and may pursue legal action. “This is unconstitutional,” he said.

Homeowners associations nationwide have been sued — and initiated litigation — over rules enforced upon residents, including much publicized battles in some association-guided communities where flying an American flag was deemed a violation.

Doug Koester, president of the association, said no one is asking the Samonas to remove the statue. The association is asking them to ask for permission to display it. A neighbor complained about the statue, he said.

“This is a very diverse neighborhood,” Koester said. “We need to try and meet in the middle.”

Rana Elmir, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said private subdivisions with bylaws generally aren’t subject to the same constitutional restrictions as municipalities.

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