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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Bayside Gazette Editorial: Every sign not equal to OPA

Something is off about the Ocean Pines Association’s response to the “I Support Education” signs dotting the yards of residents there, and it isn’t just issuing notices of violation to some people and not to others.

The violation cited in these notices refers to the Architectural Review Committee guidelines that require individuals who wish to post a yard sign to apply for and receive written permission from the ARC.

That’s an interesting situation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that this particular sign occupies a legal gray area in homeowners association law.

Without question, it is a political sign, given its ties to the movement pushing the county commissioners to approve a fully funded budget for the public school system. As such, it is more difficult to regulate per the Maryland Homeowners Association Act, which says HOAs cannot restrict or prohibit the display of candidate signs or signs regarding referendum questions if they are on private property.

Except — “I support public education” doesn’t fall into either of these categories, making it more political commentary than a call to voters for direct action. Neither the HOA act nor the ARC guidelines contain a provision for signs of this nature. Consequently, the committee can require property owners to obtain permits.

The other question, however, is whether it should. Most people would agree that “I Support Education” is as tasteful and innocuous as any yard sign could be. It is hardly shouting “Death To Tyrants” or “So-and-so Is a Schmuck!” and yet either someone complained to the ARC or a member of the ARC itself caused action to be taken.

Either way, the hither and thither application of the ARC guideline in this instance suggests that the committee’s heart wasn’t in it, and that it would have preferred to let the thing play out.

The irony in this business, however, is that the ARC’s action brought even more attention to the signs and the reason they were posted in the first place.