TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - 66-year-old Helene Feinerman is in a legal battle with the exclusive River Ranch Homeowners Association on Tucson’s far east side.
An aging hippie, who displays “hipi” on her license plate, and a former protester, she believes the HOA is harassing her.
“Singling me out and treating me differently than the other homeowners,” she said.
The problem began last spring when Feinerman put up two, three-inch lighted plastic dragonflies in her front yard.
The HOA, she says, told her she would have to ask permission to put them in the front yard. She has them in her back yard also.
She asked by email, but it was rejected. She was told she’d have to ask by writing a letter.
She refused since email requests had been accepted in the past and she says she saw the change in rules as targeting her.
In a letter written by her attorney, he observed other people in the neighborhood had decorative objects in their front yards.
Without the written permission, and as a form of protest, the dragonflies went back up after 30 days where they remain today.
In the meantime, she says she put up a marijuana sign in her window as a tribute to her late mother whose birthday was 4/20.
4/20 is considered a marijuana holiday which Feinerman says she celebrates. The sign says “Happy 4/20.”
She was issued one of the state’s first medical marijuana cards in 2012 because of her near debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.
But the HOA said that too had to come down.
That’s when another issue began, which also remains unresolved.
“Every time they harass me I order another one from Amazon and put it up,” she said.
Now she has about a dozen cannabis signs in her front window, including several led lights, which flicker on and off.
In order to get her to take them down, the HOA is seeking to amend it rules, CC&R’s, to include signs which are “within or on any dwelling.”
The association says the lights “shine into the street and neighboring homes at night.”
“They can tell you what do to in your yard, they can tell you what color to paint your house,” she said. “I don’t think people are going to want homeowner’s (associations) to control what’s going on inside your house.”
The HOA sent a letter to the members asking them to sign approving or disapproving of the change. It needs 75 percent approval to go into effect.
Calls to the present members of the HOA went unanswered but the former president weighed in.
“You don’t jump into CC&Rs to make a change to go after a single homeowner,” said Larry Blount, the former president. “That’s the problem here.”
He believes that going after Feinerman for the signs raises another issue.
“I think that’s a first amendment issue and the board should step away and be quiet," he said. Still he thinks a compromise can be reached where the homeowner moves the dragonflies to be in compliance and the board drops its complaints on the signs.
Even Feinerman’s attorney has offered that as a compromise but says “she will not remove the signs from the interior of her home.”
Some neighbors approve, others don’t.
“I don’t like it,” said Barry who stopped to offer an opinion. “But it’s her prerogative."
Fighting it can get expensive because of legal fees. A recent battle with a homeowner cost the association $45,000 in legal fees and this one could add up quickly too.
“Eventually they’re going to come together but it’s going to cost a whole lot of money,” said Blount. “Me, personally because it’s the HOA spending the money.”
But for Feinerman it’s not about money.
She says there’s nothing in the CC&Rs that prevent the signs because they’re inside of her home and she has a right to express herself.
“It’s freedom of speech,” she said. “I’ll take it to what ever court I need to take it.”