New York Times
By Reginald Stuart
TAMARAC, Fla., Jan. 22, 1984 – Ronald and Bonnie Pomerantz like to think of themselves and their daughter, Erika, as likable types, not inclined to provoke trouble. But since Erika’s birth six months ago the family has been embroiled in a legal skirmish with the homeowners’ association in their adults-only community.
The court battle could force the Pomerantzes out of their home or make such communities across the state revise their restrictions on children.
The Woodland’s Section 8 Association Inc., the group representing homeowners in a fashionable private community here, has asked the Broward County Circuit Court to prohibit Erika from living in her parents’ house because it is a violation of the neighborhood’s deed covenant, which restricts permanent residence to people who are at least 16 years old. Her parents, who have owned the house for six years, say they know about the rules, but were spurred to fight by the way the matter was handled.
”When Bonnie was eight months pregnant we got a call from a man who said he was an attorney for the association and asked if we had made plans to move,” recalled Mr. Pomerantz, 40 years old, who with his wife is a part-owner of a furniture company. ”I said no. He said, ‘Then as soon as your wife gets home, we’ll file legal proceedings to enjoin you from living here.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding,’ and he said, ‘No,’ then I said, ‘Well you just do that,’ and then hung up.
”If we could have gotten it down to a personal level, then I think it would have been resolved,” said the 30-year- old Mrs. Pomerantz, adding that given time, they would have moved without a fuss.
On Dec. 30, notice of legal action was given. The court hearing has not yet been set.
”Were the Pomerantzes to continue to live in the adult section of the development, it would destroy the network of society they have set up there,” said George Platt, the Fort Lauderdale attorney representing the homeowners’ group. He said the adult sections of the Woodlands were largely occupied by retired people. ”They’ve spent many years raising their families and they moved to Florida and they want to live in a degree of tranquillity.”
The Pomerantz case goes to the heart of one of Florida’s sticky issues, striking a balance between the interests and rights of children and those of the growing number of retired people moving here, many of whom choose to live in communities that place stiff restrictions on the permanent residents’ children. The issue is also one of widespread debate in other states with large numbers of retired people, including Arizona and California.
Mr. Platt said the concept of adult communities had survived numerous court tests in Florida, and he cited a 1979 Florida Supreme Court decision upholding the concept. That case, White Egret v. Franklin, involved age deed covenants in a condominium. In California, the State Supreme Court ruled just the opposite in 1982, saying rights of children cannot be overridden by such covenants in apartments, condominiums and single-family homes.
Alan Ehrlich, president of the Broward County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has taken on the Pomerantzes’ cause, said this case posed new questions. It involved single-family detached houses, not condominiums as the White Egret case did, he said. Also, while the court in that case upheld the concept of adult-only communities, it did not grant the plaintiffs’ wishes because it found enforcement of the child restriction rules had apparently not been uniform in that particular development, Mr. Ehrlich said.
There is no shortage of information to suggest that the child restriction rules have been violated before in his neighborhood, Mr. Pomerantz said as he waved a stack of note cards with names of people who were said to have violated the rules.
Mr. Ehrlich said the case was likely to be resolved in state court, but if not he said it could become a test case in Federal Court, where few deed restriction cases involving age have been pursued.
Neighbors of the Pomerantzes have mixed feelings about the family’s problem, and most people decline to discuss it at all. One retired woman, who arrived here for the weekend from New York City, said she met the Pomerantzes for the first time today as they took Erica on an afternoon stroll.
”This is an act of God, like lightning,” the woman, who asked not to be identified, said of Erika’s birth, with a smile. ”And they are being almost persecuted.”
- Sharon Aron Baron created the Woodlands Tamarac in 2010 for original News for the community. In 2011 she went on to create Tamarac Talk, in 2012, Coral Springs Talk and 2017, Parkland Talk.
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