FISHERS, Ind — A backyard battle involving a 23-inch wading pool is now over.
Six weeks after Bob and Julia Taylor were threatened by their homeowner association with legal action if they did not remove the inflatable pool from their lawn, the Fishers couple learned the pool can stay.
“I’m feeling complete relief and joy,” Julia told 13News. “We appreciate the board came to the right decision.”
The attorney for the Oak Hall Homeowners Association board sent the Taylors a letter Tuesday night stating the HOA “hereby withdraws its grievance” against the family.
That grievance claimed the Taylors violated neighborhood rules when they inflated the pool in their backyard in early May. Kirkpatrick Management, the management company hired to enforce Oak Hall’s HOA covenants, cited a rule stating no above-ground pools are permitted in the Fishers neighborhood.
But the Taylors fought back, pointing out a separate neighborhood rule that allows inflatable wading pools that are less than 2-feet tall, as long as they have no filter, are placed in the backyard and are used only seasonally. The Taylors sent Kirkpatrick Management a letter, measurements and photos confirming that their pool met all of those conditions, and they also provided an inspection report from the Town of Fishers Permitting Office to verify the wading pool fell within the neighborhood’s guidelines.
The HOA and Kirkpatrick Management were not satisfied. They hired the law firm of Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel, and attorney Stephen Donham threatened further legal action against the Taylors. That prompted 13News to report on the escalating dispute last week.
Following that news report, thousands of 13News viewers voiced anger over the HOA’s aggressive tactics. Among those viewers was Noblesville attorney Brian DeHem, who contacted the Taylors to provide free legal assistance in their battle against the HOA.
The HOA then decided to make a settlement offer that would have allowed the Taylors to keep their pool, but only if the couple agreed to a lengthy set of conditions proposed by the HOA’s law firm.
Insisting the pool was fully in compliance with neighborhood rules, DeHem notified Oak Hall that the Taylors rejected that offer and demanded the legal matter be dismissed.
Tuesday, the HOA and its attorney backed down, notifying the Taylors they could keep their wading pool to “bring this matter to a close.”
“To me this is kind of like a David and Goliath type story in a way, and if it wasn't for all the support that we received, then I don't think the turnout would have been the same,” Bob Taylor said, thanking the Town of Fishers, DeHem, WTHR and neighbors for their assistance.
DeHem said while HOAs usually have the upper hand when it comes to rule disputes, in this case the HOA faced an uphill battle because it failed to honor its own rules. Nonetheless, he did not expect the dispute to end just a few days after he and the Taylors rejected the HOA’s settlement offer.
“I was extremely surprised how quickly it was resolved. Usually these things drag on quite some time, but I think luckily the board members and home owners got involved and put pressure on the attorneys to do the right thing,” DeHem told 13News. He said it is not unusual for management companies and attorneys to provide questionable advice to HOAs, extending minor disputes and leaving neighborhoods and their residents to pay the resulting legal bills.
Kirkpatrick Management Company and Donham have not returned multiple phone calls and emails from 13News seeking comment.
The Taylors, who pay monthly HOA fees to use the Oak Hall community pool in their neighborhood, are hoping they will need to use their wading pool for only a few months. They purchased the pool for their 12-year-old daughter to use during the COVID-19 pandemic because Julia has an autoimmune disorder that puts her at a higher risk of contracting the virus. They will not use the community pool until the coronavirus threat has diminished. Instead, they will use their wading pool – all 24 inches of it.
“Right now, we’re just overjoyed and grateful,” Bob Taylor said. “We love living in this neighborhood and we love our neighbors, and we just want to get on with the rest of the summer.”