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Homeowners, veteran spar over flying flag on tall pole

LAWRENCEVILLE - Andrew Keene considers himself pretty patriotic.

The 11-year National Guard member has been to Iraq, serving two years ago as a member of the 48th Brigade. Now, he wants to display his patriotism on his front lawn, flying the American flag for all to see.

But the Buford resident said members of his homeowners association don't like the 20-foot pole in his yard.

"It looks a lot better; it stands out a lot more than those dumb little poles," he said of the kind attached to people's houses. "They're restricting the way I fly my flag."

Sarah McDonald, the president of the Marlowe Estates homeowners association, did not return messages this week seeking comment. But representatives of the Association Management Advisory Group said the flap is not about the flag.

"Mr. Keene is encouraged to fly the American flag on the side of his house, where it's allowed," Group President and CEO Laurie McClain said. "It's not about the American flag. It's about Mr. Keene not following the architectural guidelines of his community."

McClain said as a member of the homeowners association board, Keene was there when the guidelines restricting how flags can be flown were adopted. Other board members have the option of fining him or removing him from the board if he continues to keep the retractable flag pole in his yard, she said.

The development's guidelines state that homeowners have to submit an application for any decorative objects visible from the street, including wagon wheels, benches and any kind of pole.

A Gwinnett County ordinance limits residential flag poles to 25 feet, but in the subdivision's rules, flag poles are prohibited.

McClain said Keene applied for permission to have the flag pole after he had already erected it this summer. His application was denied, as was a subsequent appeal.

"We want him to fly it in a way that meets the covenant," McClain said.

Keene said members of the homeowners association worry that if residents have permission to fly the American flag on a large pole, it could mean the association loses the ability to stop people from flying flags of other countries on similar structures.

The guidelines already require an application to display other flags on flag staffs attached to houses.

"It's important to me because it's the American flag," Keene said. "Going to Iraq, you get to see and understand how lucky we are. It does make me more proud."

The 11-year National Guard member has been to Iraq, serving two years ago as a member of the 48th Brigade. Now, he wants to display his patriotism on his front lawn, flying the American flag for all to see.

But the Buford resident said members of his homeowners association don't like the 20-foot pole in his yard.

"It looks a lot better; it stands out a lot more than those dumb little poles," he said of the kind attached to people's houses. "They're restricting the way I fly my flag."

Sarah McDonald, the president of the Marlowe Estates homeowners association, did not return messages this week seeking comment. But representatives of the Association Management Advisory Group said the flap is not about the flag.

"Mr. Keene is encouraged to fly the American flag on the side of his house, where it's allowed," Group President and CEO Laurie McClain said. "It's not about the American flag. It's about Mr. Keene not following the architectural guidelines of his community."

McClain said as a member of the homeowners association board, Keene was there when the guidelines restricting how flags can be flown were adopted. Other board members have the option of fining him or removing him from the board if he continues to keep the retractable flag pole in his yard, she said.

The development's guidelines state that homeowners have to submit an application for any decorative objects visible from the street, including wagon wheels, benches and any kind of pole.

A Gwinnett County ordinance limits residential flag poles to 25 feet, but in the subdivision's rules, flag poles are prohibited.

McClain said Keene applied for permission to have the flag pole after he had already erected it this summer. His application was denied, as was a subsequent appeal.

"We want him to fly it in a way that meets the covenant," McClain said.

Keene said members of the homeowners association worry that if residents have permission to fly the American flag on a large pole, it could mean the association loses the ability to stop people from flying flags of other countries on similar structures.

The guidelines already require an application to display other flags on flag staffs attached to houses.

"It's important to me because it's the American flag," Keene said. "Going to Iraq, you get to see and understand how lucky we are. It does make me more proud."