Stay Out: Florida Subdivision Bans Hurricane Evacuees

POSTED: 6:30 am EDT September 9, 2005

OCALA, Fla. -- Subdivision rules are keeping some Ocala residents from temporarily housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees, and angry homeowners said it might make them move.

The board of Majestic Oaks Homeowners Association told homeowners their deed restrictions prohibit housing people who fled the Gulf Coast. According to the Ocala Star-Banner, a flier, distributed by the Majestic Oaks homeowners association Saturday, said that rather than allowing "additional families" in the community, residents were encouraged to contribute to hurricane relief funds.

The board sent the notice after learning that a minister in the 500-home subdivision had traveled to New Orleans and planned to take in three families of evacuees.

Resident Georgia Ann Bolla said she's ashamed to live in Majestic Oaks and she's ready to move. She told the paper that she went "ballistic" when she got the notice.

"I'm proud of what Texas is doing for the refugees, we know what hospitality is," she said. "We have a wonderful community, but this is a disgrace."

Homeowners association president Bob Watson said legal liability means the restrictions can't be ignored.

"They're talking about their feelings, not using common sense," Watson told the paper. "We feel bad about it, very upset about it ... There's no real solution."

The director of a Florida community coalition said similar restrictions are routinely upheld in court, but boards can decide to not enforce them.

"We didn't know the covenants would mean we couldn't help people,� Bryce Mercier, who is both a Majestic Oaks resident and superintendent for the development's builder, Triple Crown Homes, told the paper.

"These are single-family residences, and that's what they were intended for," Audrey Andrews, vice president of the homeowners association, said Monday.

Andrews did say that association residents could bring in evacuees who are family members.

According to the newspaper, in 1996, the association took a homeowner to court to make him remove a flagpole and the American flag from his yard.