Warner weighs in on homeowner’s association squabble
Virginia Senator Mark Warner is jumping into the debate over a World War II veteran and his flag pole, that has caused so much disagreement in a Henrico homeowner’s association, that it could end up in court.
Col. Van Barfoot petitioned the Sussex Square Homeowner’s Association for the right to put up a flagpole in his front yard to fly the American Flag. The HOA turned down the request and told the Veteran he was welcome to fly the flag off the side of his house, but a separate pole in front of the house was not allowed. Col. Barfoot believes flying the American Flag in that manner is offensive and chose to put up the pole and fly the flag appropriately, despite the board’s wishes.
The aftermath has left a bitter squabble between the 90-year-old Medal of Honor winner and the elusive board, that refers all media questions to their attorney. This week they informed Barfoot that if the flag doesn’t come down by Friday they will take him to court.
That is when Mark Warner got involved. Warner, who developed a relationship with Barfoot during his time as Governor, called the Veteran yesterday and sounded off on the controversy in a two–part tweet, where he called the HOA decision “plain wrong”. The Senator told Colonel that he plans to write a letter to the HOA board and encourage them to come up with an amicable resolution to this problem. Warner also talked to our Tara Morgan about the controversy Wednesday night and said the following:
“I know that communities ought to have rules, but oh my gosh, if there’s a time to make an exception to the rule for somebody whose served our country Medal of Honor winner for World War II, at a time when our troops are in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe there’s no legal way for them, but sure as heck convince this subdivision to give this American hero a chance to raise his flag,”
– Sen. Mark Warner (D- Virginia)
There is no question that a sitting United States Senator, who operates at perhaps the highest level of government, could certainly have influence over a Homeowner’s Association which is perhaps the lowest level of government. But even Warner notes that legally there is no action he can take to force them to do so. If the HOA allows the flag to fly, it will be because they chose to reverse an earlier decision in the wake of public pressure. Something that despite an intense barrage of media coverage, they have chosen to not do yet.
So why does Warner choose to get involved in a battle that truly involves a very small number of people? As we mentioned the Senator does have a personal relationship with Col. Barfoot, but he also has a keen sense of which issues to jump on the bandwagon for, and he usually is there before any of his fellow politicians. Warner knew that public support for Col. Barfoot’s case is pretty high (This poll on nbc12.com shows that more than 90% of respondents are on his side) and that many people have a poor view of Homeowner’s Associations.
The question is, will Warner’s influence keep Col. Barfoot out of court? He has been offered free legal assistance by a local law firm and appears prepared to hold his ground. If it goes that far, we will have to see how many other elected officials rush to the Medal of Honor winner’s defense.
A Facebook group has started in honor of Col. Barfoot’s effort to fly his flag. It now boasts more than 700 members.
Senator Warner’s office just released a statement that claims they have reached an agreement with the HOA to come up with a solution to the Barfoot situation. Here is the statement from Warner’s spokesperson Kevin Hall:
“Today, the Sussex Square Homeowner’s Association Board voted unanimously to ask Senator Warner’s office to attempt to reach a reasonable solution in the dispute over a flagpole on property owned by Col. Van T. Barfoot. We intend to get to work right away to try to come up with a solution that’s acceptable to both Col. Barfoot and to the Homeowner’s Association.”
– Kevin Hall, Communications Director
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (Virginia)
*Tara Morgan’s story on this controversy from Wednesday night
*Andy Jenks’ original report on the controversy.