Resident Has Beef With HOA

BERLIN – A local homeowners association seems to be assuming powers it does not legally have, according to one resident, who asked the Berlin Mayor and Council to instruct the association that its bylaws do not supercede town or state law.

Decatur Farms resident Bruce Stender asked the Berlin Mayor and Council for help Monday night after a dispute arose over where he could park his boat and boat trailer in the community. Stender originally had his boat parked at his home, which is against Decatur Farms bylaws, and was told by the association to move it to a public street.

In Berlin, under state and municipal law, tagged boat trailers may be parked on public streets. Stender, an Ocean City police officer, spoke to the Berlin Police Department about the law.

After moving his boat and trailer to a public street within Decatur Farms, however, Stender faced further censure by the homeowners association.

“I’ve just been fined $1,800 by my homeowners association because I have a boat on a public street in the town of Berlin,” Stender said.

The association has instructed him to move the boat by this week or it will be towed. Stender said the association does not have the legal power to do so and towing would be felony theft.

Stender acknowledged that the dispute is a civil law matter and said that he was only asking Berlin to affirm the primacy of town law over the bylaws of the homeowners association.

Under the homeowners association’s stance, Stender said, the association could approve a bylaw exempting the subdivision from paying town taxes, but that would not be legal either.

“I need the assistance of the city council,” Stender said. “It seems the homeowners association is really overstepping their bounds.”

Representatives of the Decatur Farms homeowners association could not be reached for comment.

Parking a boat trailer on a Berlin street is lawful, interim Mayor Gee Williams said.

“We can’t fight your battle,” warned Council member Ellen Lang.

Stender said he was not asking the town to do that. He simply wanted to know if the town’s laws overrule those of his homeowners’ association.

The council voted 3 to 1 to have Gaskill write a letter confirming that tagged boat trailers may be parked on public town streets, which includes most streets in Decatur Farms. Council member Dean Burrell dissented.