York County woman fights to put up 'no trespassing' sign

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by Janet Roach

WVEC.com

Posted on July 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:35 PM

YORK COUNTY -- Jhonette Gamble says she’s a victim of rape and wants to do everything she can to protect herself.

Although her accused attacker was acquitted, Gamble says she has taken a number of steps to improve her safety since then.

“I bought a gun, I got an ADT system put in, I got an electronic door handle,” said Gamble, as she walks around her patio and doorway.

But she says she hit a roadblock after posting a “No Trespassing” sign on her fence at Yorkshire Downs Condos in York County.

Someone under the instruction of her homeowner’s association, Community Group, removed the sign and slid it under the fence.  Undeterred, Gamble says, “I actually STENCILED no trespassing on the fence, and they sent someone to paint over the no trespassing under there.”

Since she already has an ADT security sign in her yard, and neighbors have numerous flags and welcome signs, a puzzled Gamble questioned her association on the removal of the "No Trespassing" sign.

This set up an electronic back and forth between Gamble and representatives from the association. In one email to Gamble, Community Group account manager Marsha Hoiberg wrote that the by-laws enforced by the board of directors prohibit signs of any kind.

“My question was, 'If that's not a sign then why is this one, or vice versa?,'” asks Gamble, pointing to her clearly-visible security sign near the doorway. 

She emailed them again asking for a definition of the word ‘sign’ and was told a sign doesn't need to be defined. 

Hoiberg told the 13News Troubleshooters that "no trespassing" signs are placed in the common areas by the association in order to protect all residents. She says she also encourgaged Gamble to come to a board meeting to express her concerns.

David McDonald with the Mediation Center in Norfolk has refereed conflicts between homeowners and their associations for years. He says the associations generally have a lot of power.

“It’s a small government.  Essentially, it’s like a small country,” McDonald says, explaining the sometimes strained relationships between the two.

He recommends residents get to know the board, attend meetings, and become involved.  At the same time, he adds that board members need some flexibility with their rules.

“Times change, you have different needs. I would think they have to go with the flow. If crime has picked up, if this is an important thing for this homeowner, you [the association] need to change.”

The question in Gamble’s case is who holds the right to post or not to post?  The homeowner or the homeowner’s association?

According to legal experts, Virginia statutes that explain criminal trespassing laws imply the right to post a sign.  However, those rights can be signed away when a homeowner enters into an agreement with an association.

Gamble says she's a victim of a double standard and says she will continue to voice her oppostion.

“I could understand if I wanted to do something cosmetic, paint my house, or something more dramatic.”

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