While garden gnomes may have recently made great strides toward acceptance at the U.K.’s premiere garden show, it’s a whole other story at the Ashton Lakes subdivision in Port Orange, Fla., where the wee pipe-smoking fellas — and all other forms of front yard statuary be it animals, magical woodland creatures, or 19 replicas of Michelangelo’s David — have been effectively declared as verboten by the neighborhood HOA.
Now this might not seem that severe of a demand for a homeowners association to make considering that most forms of lawn décor are, well, godawful hideous. Let’s just say if I were the power-hungry despot-in-chief of an HOA, I’d encourage edible front gardens but impose a $250/week fine on anyone defying my strict no-gazing-ball covenant.
However, there’s a rather icky, “for the love of God, just grandfather her in” aspect to this story not that much unlike the tale of Kimberly Bois, a condo owner in New Hampshire who was sued by her condo association for refusing to tear up a neat little patch of blooms transplanted from her late mother’s garden to in front of her own unit. (Long story short, Bois planted the memorial garden — with the developer’s written consent — two years before the condo association was even formed).
You see, Norma Freije, a 13-year resident of Ashton Lakes, has long had a seraphim statue placed in her super-tidy front yard as a tribute to her beloved late husband. “I have her lit up at night with a solar light. She looks so beautiful," a weepy Freije tells Orlando-based TV station WESH of the decidedly non-flashy angel statue. "I just have it because I lost my husband, and it's just sentimental, that's all."
The Ashston Lakes homeowners association couldn’t care less about the deep emotional attachment that Freije has with the angel. Or with the pelican, egrets or gnome that also populate her front yard. If it’s an inanimate decorative object in a front or side yard, it has to go under the new guidelines — and it doesn’t matter if said "yard art" has been there for years. If the statues are not removed, Freije and the dozens of other homeowners within the 139-home community who also received "stern" letters from the HOA must fork over a fine.
Another resident of the subdivision has been asked to remove a basketball hoop from his driveway. “A basketball hoop for children to play at the end of a cul-de-sac — I don't see how that affects values," the homeowner tells WESH.
WESH tried to contact the HOA president about Freije and her offending angel. He wasn’t at home, but reporter Claire Metz did discover a decorative water fountain in his yard and a cat statue somewhat hidden away near his front door. Busted.