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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | ‘Deco-Gate’ combatants need timeout

Neighbors are terrified.

Gangs? Drug dealers? Vandals?


A homeowners association.

In this case, the Summerfield/Riverwalk Homeowners Association in Lakewood Ranch.

Welcome to “Deco-Gate.”

Neighbors have rallied to Joani Ellis’ side in her ongoing dispute with the association, but prefer anonymity lest they draw the scrutiny of the association and its gumshoes.

Ellis’ crime?

Having more decorative items than are permitted in her front yard — a well kept front yard that would grace any neighborhood.

Except Summerfield/Riverwalk, apparently.

But Ellis turned the tables, taking photos of similar violations in other front yards.

Violations that had not only gone unaddressed, but were found in yards belonging to association officials, past and present.

That got some people’s attention.

Ratcheted up the confrontation, too.

Or hissing match.

Some people need to get a grip.

As Ellis argued, let’s use some common sense.

We’re talking about tasteful lawn ornaments.

Granted, something as innocuous as a seashell might be a projectile in the event of a hurricane.

Then again, should we get hit by a hurricane — God forbid — people will have more to worry about than flying seashells.

Summerfield/Riverwalk included.

Being a homeowners association official isn’t easy.

I recall a nasty fight involving a West Boca Raton subdivision over a resident’s satellite dish.

It looked big enough to track small planets in the next galaxy.

The board was right.

On the other hand, sometimes a little authority is a dangerous thing.

A homeowners association exists to serve the interests of the homeowners.

Not the other way around.

Perhaps the Summerfield/Riverwalk Homeowners Association needs to be reminded of that.

Pam Brown, one of Ellis’ neighbors, is unafraid to say what’s on her mind.

“If people don’t stand up and speak out, they deserve what happens to them,” she said.

You go, girl.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee Count. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton FL 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification purposes.