Resident backs HOA’s flag policy

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015

After asking a resident to take down his American flag because the flag holder was an unauthorized exterior modification, a North Suffolk homeowners association has introduced new regulations on the subject.

Daniel Toner, a veteran of the war in Iraq, was incensed last month when the association that sets rules in his Belmont Park neighborhood asked him to remove the Stars and Stripes from his front porch.

From the association’s point of view, the issue wasn’t the flag itself but the flag holder. Daniel Toner’s mother, from whom he rents the condo, had gotten written permission from the association’s property management company to fly the flag. But after Toner installed a small holder on a porch post and an American flag within guidelines specified in the letter, Toner was then asked to remove the flag, at least until a flag policy was adopted.

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Declaring that by restricting his installation of a flag holder the association was restricting the American flag by association, Toner dug his heels in. The flag went nowhere, and eventually, Toner said, “they did what they should have done (in the first place) and dropped the issue.”

Toner supplied the Suffolk News-Herald with a copy of the resolution on flags that the association’s board of directors approved last week. It says, “residents may fly any flag of choice and preference” without the consent of the board, subject to certain rules and regulations governing the display or any flag.

Those rules and regulations are:

  • Flags can’t cover a window with the objective of the flag being visible from outside.
  • The flagpole must be no longer than 6 feet long and the flag no larger than 3 feet by 5 feet. The wall mount must be positioned on the front porch column away from the next-door neighbor.
  • Each residence is allotted one house-mounted pole and one “small” freestanding garden flagpole. Small is defined as 18 inches high by 12.5 inches wide.
  • Larger freestanding flagpoles are forbidden.
  • Flags need to be in good condition, and the board reserves the right to require the removal of any flag it finds to be “torn, frayed or tattered, stained or otherwise” if a resident fails to replace it within 10 days of a board request to do so.
  • American flags must be flown in compliance with the American Flag Code, with the board reserving the right to remove any that are not.

“I think it’s exactly how I wanted it worded,” Toner said. “It pretty much covers everything I had an issue with.”

Toner also supplied a letter the association sent to homeowners and residents to — as stated in the letter — “address misinformation that has been circulating through various news outlets and social media” regarding Toner’s case.

The association never intended to deny anyone the right to fly the American flag, according to the letter. “Additionally, no one on the board takes any personal issue with keeping any member of the military or veterans from paying homage to the Flag of the United States,” it says.

The “situation in the news” was about a flag holder that hadn’t been vetted through the application process, according to the letter.

Toner said of the letter, “I think it’s an attempt on their part to obfuscate and make them not look as bad as they looked when they asked me to take it down.”

After his flag fight was widely reported, including beyond Hampton Roads, Toner said the majority of news outlets said the association asked him to remove the flag. “They didn’t say ‘ordered’ or anything like that,” he said.

Toner said he went public “to make sure everyone saw that this does happen, and that every reasonable-minded American thinks its ridiculous.”

The best part about it all, Toner said, is that since the story was picked up, “there are 10 different houses (in Belmont Park) now with American flags … (and) I’m pretty sure they didn’t ask permission from the association.”