Homeowners' group wants 'Jesus' out of community

DISPUTE - Lynn and Mark Wivell's Christmas decoration elicited a complaint at The Links at Gettysburg Courtyards community. The Courtyards Executive Board asked the Wivells to remove the decoration, saying it does not comply with the community's sign rules. Mark says it is a decoration, not a sign, and has no plans to take it down. (Bradley Kanagy/Gettysburg Times)

Someone called a Gettysburg man's Jesus decoration offensive and now a homeowners' association wants him to take it down.

Mark Wivell, of the Courtyards community at The Links at Gettysburg, posted a handmade sign that spells "Jesus" in red garland and lights outside his Laurel Hill Court home on Saturday. He said he received an email the next day from a member of the Courtyards Executive Board, under The Links at Gettysburg Homeowners Association, asking him to take the decoration down.

Wivell was told a neighbor complained and called the sign "offensive."

"After taking a look at it, it isn't in accordance with normal Christmas decorations," Courtyards President Bud Vance wrote.

Wivell said he wanted to have a decoration to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the first year he has put up the Jesus decoration.

"I'm quite frankly shocked," Wivell said.

In the email, Vance asked Wivell to "please remove it from display."

Wivell took no such action, believing his decoration adheres to the rules of the community.

"I just felt it was time to acknowledge I'm a Christian," he said.

Wivell has lived in the community since 2005 and said he is familiar with the guidelines in the Public Offering Statement (POS), which residents sign when they move in. Being familiar with the rule that prohibits decorations in the yard, Wivell made sure to put the decoration in the mulch bed outside his home, he said.

Wivell argues it is "not technically a sign," but a Christmas decoration that complies with the POS. The Courtyards board disagrees.

A second email sent to Wivell, this time from the entire three-member board, explained how the sign is in violation. Tom Fischer and Karen Landry also sit on the board.

Quoting the POS, the board wrote, "No signs or billboard of any kind shall be displayed to the public view on any unit "

The email continued on to say it is a "key responsibility" of the board to address complaints from homeowners regarding "matters that are in conflict" with the community's rules.

"We simply cannot decide to enforce some standards and allow other standards to be ignored," the board wrote.

The board said it's not the Christmas-related content that's the issue but the "size, structure, and illumination" of the sign. Wivell said there are no guidelines in the community regarding the size, structure, or illumination of Christmas decorations.

"They're trying to apply sign rules to a Christmas decoration," Wivell said.

As of now, Wivell has no plans to remove "Jesus" from his property.

Times Staff Writer

Mary Grace has been a Gettysburg Times Staff Writer since December 2016. She covers Carroll Valley Borough, Cumberland Township, Liberty Township, Mount Joy Township, Straban Township, and Littlestown Area School District. Mary Grace lives in Gettysburg.

(5) comments

HokieNav

"No signs or billboard of any kind shall be displayed to the public view on any unit "

Seems pretty clear to me, where's the problem? Learn to follow the rules, or face the consequences. I'm sure those are spelled out in the HOA rules too...

BringUsSomeFiggyPudding

Feel bad for the people who put up the Jesus sign. They live next to some pretty miserable people. If I lived on that block I would put up a Jesus sign too in protest of the hateful people in that neighborhood and their messed up HOA.

WhyMeLord

Why pay someone (A HOA) to make your life miserable.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/conflicts-and-interests/

https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/growing-disillusioned-with-hoas/

WTSherman

I don't pay them to make my life miserable, I pay them to ensure that I live in a neighborhood that is a decent place. If the guy wants to proclaim his faith, he can find a way to do so that is within the rules he chose to live by, or he can attempt to have the rules changed. Willfully violating them and then running around crying about it isn't going to solve anything.

DongusEddy

The US Constitution mentions nothing about a right not to be offended. The "Jesus" is clearly a sign, but it is part of the covenants that allow Christmas dens. The homeowners have stated that the sign will come down with the other decorations at the end of the permitted period. The complaining neighbor is being intolerant. I would like to know how the name of "Jesus" is offensive and what impact it has on the individual that would trump the right to have a Christmas display.

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