Cherrydale man fights for right to fly flag

Guy Snyder has spent more than 20 years serving his country. A lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard, Snyder has lived all over the world and always flown an American flag outside his home.

So when Snyder heard that the head of his homeowners’ association is considering banning the display of flags in Cherrydale, he took it personally.

Snyder is one of many residents upset by a rumor that Cherrydale Homeowners’ Association president Kathy Thomas wants to ban the display of American flags at the town house community in Dale City.

A recent chain of e-mails between Thomas and Cherrydale property manager Jo Ann Grayson discusses Thomas’ interest in forbidding the display of flags.

In a Jan. 3 e-mail from Grayson, who works for Cardinal Management Group, to the Cherrydale Homeown-ers’ Association’s attorney, Ray Ceresa, Grayson wrote, “Kathy Thomas wants me to cite the display of American flags as a violation of the governing documents pertaining to exterior decorative objects.”

Grayson, who did not return phone and e-mail messages, went on to write that she believes residents are permitted by law to display flags and that some people would be personally offended by restrictions.

“I also believe this would be an unwise public relations move and could end up in the press or court,” she wrote.

Thomas did not return repeated phone messages Monday or Tuesday.

Ceresa said the association’s interest in flag laws was sparked long before Sept. 11, when a Cherrydale resident hung an American flag beach towel across his window as a curtain.

The association, which has bylaws requiring residents to have curtains on their windows, ordered the man to take down the towel.

The man argued that he had the right to hang it because it was a form of the flag, leading to an inquiry into how far the law goes in protecting a resident’s right to display a flag, Ceresa said.

“They’re certainly not interested in telling people they can’t display the flag. But you can do a whole lot of decorating with red, white and blue. It’s tough to regulate taste,” he said.

But some Cherrydale residents believe Thomas’ interest was sparked because her neighbor has small, handheld-type flags sticking out of windows.

According to the Code of Virginia, a homeowners’ association cannot prohibit the display of flags of the United States, the commonwealth or any active branch of the armed forces unless specifically prohibited by the association’s rules or architectural guidelines provided to residents in a disclosure packet.

“If they don’t prohibit it, can they regulate it? Can we tell people they can’t paint flags on their roof or hang a beach towel? Right now [the association] is looking for guidance,” Ceresa said.

He said he is looking into the matter for the Cherrydale Homeowners’ Association Board of Directors, which will likely discuss it at a meeting next month.

Snyder, who is a member of the Cherrydale Homeowners’ Associa-tion’s Architectural Review Board, said he supports the association but thinks any discussion about citing the display of American flags as a violation is absurd.

“This bothers me on many levels, not only because I’m serving my country in uniform, but also as an American citizen,” he said.

Cherrydale resident Anne Totman said she was shocked that the display of flags was even an issue.

“We have so many other important issues in our community that we need to work on, instead of spending time on this kind of nonsense,” she said.

Similar Posts