DENVER (CBS4) – Residents of Denver’s Lowry neighborhood are being ordered to remove yard signs pushing various social causes and are being warned that if the signs are not removed within 10 days, homeowners could be hit with fines of $100. Melissa Steele has a sign in her front yard advocating for women’s rights, science, love and kindness.
She received a letter from the Lowry Community Master Association dated Aug. 25 warning her that her sign was unauthorized, violated the HOA’s rules and regulations and needed to be removed.
“You are asked to correct this violation within 10 days from the date of this letter. Please adhere to the Association’s standards on sign display and remove those which do not comply with the Association’s legal documents,” read the letter.
Steele, who has lived in her Lowry townhome for 14 years, said she was puzzled by the order.
“We felt strongly that we wanted to make it public that we support those issues and support our neighbors who may be struggling with some of those issues. I feel like having signs supporting these social justice issues is nothing but positive so why should it be an issue right now? I think there are a lot of things they could be cracking down on, and I’m surprised this is what they chose, and frankly, I felt it was a bit racist to be honest.”
The association, which governs roughly 3,000 homes and businesses, has sent 150 such letters in the last three months according to a spokesperson. The letters have gone not just to those with social justice signs, but apparently to people with signs congratulating high school graduates, supporting first responders and other seemingly benign issues.
Heather Luehrs has had a sign in her yard for two years, she said, reading, “No matter where you are from we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
She said she never heard anything from the HOA until she recently put a temporary yard sign reading “Black Lives Matter.” She also received a letter from the HOA last week warning her that her signs ran contrary to Lowry covenants and had to be removed.
“I was surprised by it. Why would this be offensive?” Luehrs asked. “Why would it start now with this?”
She said she put the signs in because, “These times are difficult and I can’t even imagine what African Americans are going through. And if there was one small thing I could do, I could say ‘I care, you matter to me.'”
The Lowry Community Master Association declined to answer questions, but released a statement to CBS4 saying,
“Lowry’s long-standing yard signage policy, which is in line with state law, is part of its community guidelines and continues to be regularly enforced. The Lowry Community Master Association is aware of resident concerns regarding that policy, and, as with all community concerns, is taking them under consideration to ensure the guidelines best represent the community.”
The statement noted the yard sign policy is “regularly enforced.”
In communications with Lowry homeowners, the association has said yard signs are banned because if one type of sign is allowed, then all types of signs would need to be allowed.
The association said it does not want to be “the messaging police, and that is not the business we are in. The ‘no yard signs’ policy maintains an uncluttered visual landscape and supports and enhances this perception of a peaceful, more natural place. Please remove all yard signs that you may have posted recently.”
The organization’s guidelines do allow for sale and for rent signs, garage sale signs and signs supporting political candidates, but with numerous restrictions.
Mary Carr, executive director of the Lowry HOA board, wrote, ”Over the last few years, yard signs have become a more popular way to express support for issues, and most recently, as the COVID pandemic has prevented us from gathering, signs celebrating graduations and school pride have become more common. The LCMA Board has a ‘legal responsibility’ to enforce its Design Guidelines consistently. Thus the letters many of you have received.”
On the social media website “NextDoor,” some Lowry residents said if they are forced to take down their social activism signs, they will simply put them in their doors or windows. One Lowry resident expressed support for the yard sign prohibition writing, “I think it is a good idea to get rid of all signs.”
Despite the threat from the HOA, Melissa Steele said, “I don’t intend to take the sign down.””
Mary Carr said the HOA board has heard from residents and will soon begin surveying homeowners about potentially altering the yard sign guidelines.