The Battle of the Infant Swing/Vote for Hermann/Paine!
Apologies if this is too long. I tend to be thorough. But here’s the bottom line: Jimmy Walker picks on families for their playground equipment, using intimidation, yelling and other bullying tactics to demand they comply with his wishes (that may or may not be backed up by HOA rules). Our neighborhood needs a change. Vote for Jim Hermann and Mike Paine. (Note: Herman Cain has nothing to do with this campaign, and I do not condone his actions, his politics, or his extra-marital affairs, but his name is helpful to remember who to vote for.)
There is a saying that goes, “Politics is local.” As much as we would like to believe that our opinions matter in national politics, it is the local stuff that can have an immediate and direct impact on our lives. And this is why I am writing this post.
I have lived in Roxborough Park since September of 2012. It is a magical place, with incredible beauty, abundant wildlife, and amazing people. Despite some shortcomings in amenities, I don’t ever want to move away. (Instead of complaining, I’m on the neighborhood amenities committee, to try and improve what we have.)
All that being said, there has been an unfortunate divide in our community between the demographics. Namely I’m referring to the older (mostly retired) members of our community, and the families with school-age and younger children. Because our neighborhood is considered an exburb of Denver (you know, really far out), it was originally marketed as a great place to retire (with the exception of the Martin Marietta/Locheed Martin employees). However, with the advancement of technology, more and more people can work from home, and thanks to suburban sprawl, there are plenty of jobs within a reasonable commute of our neighborhood. And with those changes, more and more families moved in.
And this leads me to the point of this post. There are people in power in our community who believe that this should strictly be a neighborhood for those 55 and up. As it was not zoned that way, the only option left is to treat families poorly, offer them nothing, and hope they move. I am sad to say that this has worked quite well, but I’m not going to give up. As as parent of two little ones, I will be the change I want to see in our community. I contribute significantly to my community: I am on two committees, I started a monthly Family Movie Night to prove that families DO live here, and we want to be a part of this community. However, you can’t expect working parents (stay-at-home parents are working too!) to drop everything and attend a dance class at noon on a Wednesday (where kids are not welcome)…which is something that retired folks can do.
So, this February, we have an opportunity to vote for change. The Board of Directors has two vacancies, and three people running. One is incumbent Jimmy Walker (not to be confused with the Good Times character). The other two are Jim Hermann and Mike Paine. I have met all three, and spent time in several Board meetings with Jimmy Walker.
Jimmy Walker is one of the people who wants to rid our community of families. The single best example I can give of this is the war Jimmy waged on my neighbors over their infant swing. Yes, that is not a typo. An infant swing.
First up, here is the letter that he demanded our HOA send to our neighbor because of their swing.
June 27, 2014
Re: Swing in front yard
This letter is to notify you that Roxborough Park Foundation has received a complaint regarding an infant swing in your front yard. While swings are not the problem the color is. If you would replace it with an earth tone you will be in compliance with the foundations rules and regulations.
3.11 Recreational and Play Equipment
Installation of all playground equipment, jungle gym’s (sic), playhouses, backboards, tennis courts, volleyball pits, and similar recreational and play equipment as free-standing improvements or on the house will be screened from view from neighboring properties, constructed primarily of wood, where appropriate, and have prior approval or (sic) the DRC before installation.
Please change swing to earth tone colors or remove from tree.
To avoid further expense please contact me within 3 days of receipt of this letter at [phone number].
Jace De Valle
Your first thought is probably, “I hate HOAs.” And after a letter like this, I can’t blame you. But in general, they can be a good thing, if people are reasonable. The complaint referred to was Jimmy’s. Keep in mind, Jace is charged with enforcing the rules our HOA has set. (It is like the cop who catches you for speeding.) He is not a bad guy. He is actually very nice. And he has 7 (SEVEN) children. You can only imagine someone that has seven children would not appreciate a complaint about an infant swing, let alone being forced to write a letter about it, because a Board Member demanded he do it.
My neighbors, Lindsey and Micah Maberry, asked me what they should do. They were obviously, and rightfully upset. But I recommended they ask to meet with the Board (as I knew that Jace would never send a letter about an infant swing on his own). The Board agreed, and scheduled the meeting for Friday, July 25 during one of their study sessions.
On Friday, July 25, 2014, I was asked to attend the Board study session as well, and present information for a Splash Pad to the Board, including costs, possible models, etc. I was excited as I felt the Board was willing to consider SOMETHING for families. I arrived early at the study session, and witnessed the meeting between the Board and Lindsey and Micah Maberry about their infant swing, where the following topics were covered, mixed with my own research:
As a simple Google search will reveal, earth tone playground equipment that 100% satisfies Section 3.11 of the Design Review Document (DRD) does not exist. Go to Home Depot and see for yourself. Even the mostly neutral play equipment has bright yellow handles.
Countless studies suggest that bright colors are good for a child’s development. Bright colors also increase safety. Section 3.11 encourages wood equipment. Deidra Meyers Park used to have some wooden playground equipment when I first moved in, which was warped and splintered and unsafe. It was ultimately removed, and about a year later, finally replaced with a hunter green metal teeter totter. At the same time the replacement teeter-totter arrived, so did a fun bouncy indigo blue rocketship (donated to the park, seen here), and a bald eagle bouncer.
During the meeting with the Board, Micah mentioned several other people in the neighborhood who had the exact swing he had (with photos). Had all of those homes been sent letters? Had they all been threatened with fines, as he was now facing? He guessed not, since their swings are still there. He also mentioned the playground equipment at Deidra Meyers Park is not in compliance. Jimmy’s immediate response was to go rip out the rocketship. His face was bright red and he was steaming mad. Lindsey calmly responded (with tears in her eyes) that that wasn’t the point. The point was to understand that for kids’ equipment, bright colors are a good thing. There are plenty of neutral-ish options out there, but to insist something comply completely, otherwise it must be removed, leaves a family with zero choices.
Micah then explained that when they went to buy an infant swing, they got the last one on the shelf. They are new parents and were trying to do something fun for their then 6-month-old son. Micah wanted to use the swings at the park, but they are black rubber, which get extremely hot due to a complete lack of shade, and the toddler swings have no head support. These made the park swings an inappropriate choice for an infant.
I won’t speak for Lindsey and Micah, but I will speak for myself. If the Board told me to take down an infant swing, which by definition is temporary (by my interpretation Section 3.11 refers to permanent structures), or paint it, I would likely refuse both. Painting something that babies chew on is not an option. My children’s safety is and will always be paramount to what my neighbors might think.
The Board stated that the Maberrys must take the swing down when it was not in use. (Because parents of infants have so much time on their hands to do so.)
I understand the spirit and intention of Section 3.11 (and the entire Design Review Document). We don’t want ugly eyesores in our neighborhood. But to demand parents buy only children’s equipment that is all earth tones forces parents to buy nothing. This might be reasonable if we had an amazing community playground. The fact is that we do not. It is mediocre, but could be much better if the community was willing to invest in it. As stated above, the HOA has little interest currently in investing in things for families.
When this Foundation chooses to enforce a particular section, not because several neighbors complained (Lindsey and Micah are surrounded by neighbors with kids on all sides) but because a particular Board member was driving around and singled out an infant swing, I have a very real concern.
Furthermore, if the Board directs the Compliance officer to tell a household to comply or face a fine, what is the household’s recourse? Meet with the same biased body that ordered them to comply in the first place? How is that reasonable?
Within 24 hours of the meeting with the Maberrys, the rocketship and eagle were removed from Diedra Meyers Park.
If the color scheme of the bald eagle was in violation, how is the new bald eagle wooden sculpture allowed?
If the blue rocketship was in violation, how is the blue volleyball net in Haney Park allowed? Shouldn’t it be sand colored?
It seems that the Board (spearheaded by one individual) is taking this way too far. It appears to be a personal vendetta at this point.
I have playground equipment in my yard that is in violation of Section 3.11. It is somewhat neutral, but has several elements that are red, navy blue, hunter green, and yes, bright yellow. Pam Page stated that the Foundation does not go into people’s yards looking for violations. I have one of the few grandfathered courtyards allowed in the neighborhood, which is how I can apparently get away with all sorts of violations. As Tim Patton explained, if the Maberrys didn’t live right on Rox Drive, their swing likely wouldn’t be an issue. However, a simple look at a map of Roxborough Park suggests that between one-quarter and one-third of homes are adjacent to Roxborough Drive or North Roxborough Drive. Are all of these homes at risk for increased scrutiny? If the Maberrys are allowed to build a fence, would their issues go away?
So what can we do about this? Step one is simply to vote Jimmy Walker OUT. From my own observations, he is a bully, and dislikes kids. Vote for Jim Hermann and Mike Paine for the two spots on the Board of Directors. They are both family-friendly, and have even attended a community Family Movie Night. Interestingly, when Jim Hermann’s next-door neighbors had very young kids, Jim hung an infant swing in HIS yard (which backs up to Rox Drive), as he had a tree with suitable branches for a swing, and the new parents’ yard did not.
If families are to ever get a fair shot at being represented in our community (and then hope for things like a splash pad, or a pool, or anything else that families might enjoy), we must have representation. I believe that Jim Hermann and Mike Paine are our best shot at that. To learn more about their platform, read about it here.
If you have any questions about this, I’d love to hear from you.
As a side note, many have asked about the splash pad. After what I witnessed the same day as our Splash Pad meeting, I realized that we could make no progress with the Board with its current members. This is why it is so important to vote in two new reasonable people. I believe that the dynamic of the Board will change, and more things can happen for the benefit of the entire community.
Ballots are due by the annual meeting, Tuesday, February 24, 2015. Please take the time to vote, and turn your ballot into the drop box at the community center.