East Texas HOA sues family over backyard swing set

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on April 30, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 3:36 PM

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Mineola, Texas

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MINEOLA, Texas — For William Fry and his siblings, it's difficult to understand the controversy surrounding the play set in the backyard of their home in Mineola.

The neighborhood homeowners' association wants it to come down.

"it's just kind of going to be sad for everything to just change," Fry said.

The Spring Lake HOA filed a lawsuit against Candi Fry for putting up the $1,200 custom-built swing and slide set, claiming she broke the rules and never obtained formal approval.

"This is purely an attack," said Candi's husband, Bill Fry.

The legal action was launched when Bill Fry, a captain with the Army National Guard, was serving in Afghanistan.  His name will soon be added to the lawsuit now that he has returned home.

"The way the HOA has treated us and portrayed us to our neighbors, it has caused a fairly sizable rift," Capt. Fry said.

That rift started a year ago, before Bill Fry was deployed. He told us his wife received verbal permission for the project from the head of the HOA's architectural committee.

"His response was, 'Go ahead and build it. I'm chair of the architectural committee, and it should not be a problem,'" Candi Fry recalled.

But for Harold Lemmon, the HOA's chairman, that wasn't enough authority to move ahead with construction.

"They are in the wrong only because they declined to make proper application, submit drawings and the specifications of what they were constructing," Lemmon said, adding that the Frys ignored warnings and requests to halt construction.

"I told Bill Fry specifically to hold up further construction until we could get additional information on his project," Lemmon said.

The Frys argue that the HOA never asked for an application. They claim Lemmon also gave his word to continue the project without it.

"'You can go ahead and build it, but if somebody complains, you might have to move it,'" Fry quoted Lemmon as saying.

According to the HOA, several neighbors have complained. One sent a letter to the neighborhood organization.

Lemmon said the problems with the swing set include its location, because it is visible from the street. It's also too close to a neighbor's property line, and the design raises liability and safety concerns, he said.

The Frys have agreed to move the swing set, which is anchored into the ground, but only if the HOA splits the expense. Another offer included a similar deal, but the couple asked the HOA to pick up attorney's fees.

The HOA has refused all of those offers.

"We are sorry for the children, what has taken place in our community, but there is nothing we can do about it," Lemmon said.

As for Fry's military duties, Lemmon said he understands; he served in World War II and Korea. Lemmon explained that the swing set scuffle has nothing to do with military service. The lawsuit has to do him with doing his job — enforcing the rules.

For Bill Fry and his family, the HOA has gone beyond its duties.

"Again, they have completely ignored all the stuff we have done to try and work with them," Bill Fry said. "They are set on 'This is what we want. You are going to do it our way.'"

It is a neighborhood battle that will now be settled in a court of law.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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