Kara and Ben Wilkoff don't know what to think.
Since late last year, the Kensington Ridge/Cobblestone Village Homeowners Association, the HOA for the couple's Littleton neighborhood, has been trying to force them to take down a Black Lives Matter flag that's been flying outside their residence for months; on February 1, the HOA put its denial of the flag in writing. But after Kara put a post about the situation on Facebook on February 6, complete with photos, documents and more, the head of the HOA reached out to say that organization's board needed another ten days to review the decision.
Kara sums up her reaction in one syllable: "Huh?"
While simply suggesting that Black Lives Matter doesn't seem especially controversial, the slogan's association with protests that flared after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police
sparks strong feelings. In June, a Capitol Hill apartment complex prohibited tenants from flying a Black Lives Matter banner
. And in August, RE/MAX Alliance cut ties with Denice Reich, a prominent Denver-area realtor, after she was accused of removing Black Lives Matters signs from yards in the Hilltop neighborhood
. "The signs were as offensive as 'KKK' signs," said Reich, who subsequently signed with another local real estate agency.
Supporters of the BLM message have pushed back against such reactions, including ones linked to homeowners' associations. In November, a man in Jacksonville, Florida, sued his HOA
after it demanded that his Black Lives Matter flag be removed.
Cut to December 7, when Kara and Ben received a so-called "courtesy notice" from their HOA.
"Kensington Ridge is a premier community primarily because of the pride and care our homeowners take with their homes and landscape," it began. "Because of this, our property values remain high and our neighborhoods are safer, friendly and beautiful. Occasionally, an oversight may occur on the part of a homeowner that violates the covenants of our community. Such a condition has been noted on your property and we are asking for your help in correcting it."
Below this passage was a bold-print statement: "Flag is not approved."
A second letter on the subject arrived on December 29, complete with a section spelling out the "fine structure" for a violation. It stated that there's no fee for the courtesy notice or the second warning — but said the couple would be charged $25 for a third offense, $50 for a fourth, and $50 per day for what was termed a "continuing violation."
At that point, Kara and Ben decided to follow the HOA's own guidelines for winning approval to fly the flag, by getting the signatures of at least three neighbors (out of the 71 households in the association) willing to pledge their support. They quadrupled this requirement, collecting the signatures of twelve people. But on February 1, James Fletcher, who works for the management company employed by the HOA, delivered the board's verdict in another letter: "Thank you for submitting an architectural review request for a flag. At this time, your request has been denied."
In her February 6 Facebook post, Kara pointed out an interesting pattern in the area. "The other flags and signs of social justice that once existed in the neighborhood have slowly, yet, much to my dismay, disappeared," she said. "Ours remains the lone holdout. Despite the seeming neighborhood peer pressure, our flag, and we, persist....I realize our choice to continue to live here is voluntary. We have that privilege. We can choose to move. We don’t want to. We love this community. We love our home. And our neighbors. We want to support inclusivity, freedom of speech and most, most importantly…LOVE. Our kids have grown up here. We have grown up here. We still have lots of growing to do. Here."
The next morning, on February 7, Kara emailed Fletcher to ask for a copy of the HOA bylaws — and later that day, he called her. The conversation was "fascinating," she says. "He called me 'on behalf of the board of directors.' They wanted to know if I would give them ten additional days to review it? 'It.'"
Her attempt to clarify what this meant, exactly, only baffled her further. After a series of questions, she recalls, "He finally said something along the lines of, 'Well, they have rescinded the denial. Your request is NOT approved, it’s just no longer denied.’"
She adds: "When I asked for the reason for the denial, he wasn’t able to answer that. He kept mentioning 'miscommunications' between the board and thus the ask for ten more days so they could research some more."
Neither Fletcher nor any other representative of the HOA has responded to multiple requests for comment from Westword
In the meantime, the clock is ticking.