Are homeowner associations across the country adopting more aggressive and draconian attitudes? After listening to this interview with the Pennsylvania man whose Virgin Mary statue was kidnapped and is now being held ransom by his homeowner association, you might tend to agree, that in at least this case, they are.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.
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Homeowner Battles HOA Over Statue of Mary
By Dave Gahary
Symbols of the Christian faith continue to be under attack across America—this time coming compliments of a homeowner association (or HOA) in the Keystone State. The symbol in question: a two-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary, property of one of the condominium owners in a development. The HOA ordered the maintenance man to, in effect, kidnap it. The HOA is now holding it for a cool $4,000 ransom.
Steve Vasko’s been living in the Robinson Township development for 18 years, in a Pittsburgh suburb. His statue of Mary has been outside, on and off his property, for at least 12 of them. Vasko is a plumber and a pipefitter who owns a small construction company. He is happily married, with one child and a dog. He placed the statue on his property when his son was quite young and had become frightened over something. Nobody said a word for 12 years. That all changed fairly recently, when it was taken by his HOA.
On Dec. 15, AFP conducted a 45-minute telephone interview with Vasko, who detailed the significant events in this episode while clearly exhibiting his faith that God will resolve the matter in his favor. He traces his troubles to when new members of the HOA board were elected and installed in their posts.
“A new board came into play, and they decided they were gonna take tyrannical action to have her removed,” he explained, referring to the statue.
At first, the HOA asked the Vaskos to move the statue from under their son’s window, to the stone porch outside of the sliding doors, a few feet away. That part of the property is a “limited common area where there’s really no traffic other than for people to cut the grass, and the gas man,” explained Vasco. He said he complied with the order, but they stole the statue anyway.
“The president of the board even said if you take your statue and you move it onto your area, which is the padded area, that that’ll be fine,” said Vasco. “We even have a letter from their attorney that says that. We moved it there and they took it.”
He added that “they decided to start off small with intimidation, different types of tactics like removing privileges within the condo, and then they decided to get a little bit more hasty, and . . . they sued us.”
Although the judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the HOA was barred from filing another case on the same claim, the Vaskos were forced to pay $1,700, which included not just their attorney’s fees, but the HOA’s legal fees and court costs, standard procedure in these matters.
“So they could keep suing you [for other things], and it doesn’t cost them a dime,” lamented Vasko.
He continued: “After the case was dismissed, we started to get fined. They started out around $300, and within a few months they were at $4,000.” Vasko stated that the HOA “never explained how the fine jumped up.”
To add insult to injury, the HOA revoked the Vaskos’ parking privileges.
“They stuck us down in the overflow lots,” said Vasko, which forces the family to walk over a block and a half to get to their door. “If you move back into your parking place you get towed and fined $200. They also steal your truck and your car and whatever you have in it,” he explained.
AFP asked what he thinks is motivating these people to do this.
“I don’t know,” he said. “If the Blessed Mother bothers them so much, then they’re evil.”
The case is currently in limbo. Vasko is refusing to pay the fine to get back his statue, but his faith in God is unshakable.
“This is a family member, because she’s the mother of everybody,” said Vasko. “This is not a smart idea because Our Lady is not gonna get smacked down. She’s the Mother of God; she’s life.”
During the interview, Vasko wanted to be crystal clear about one thing: “This is more about exposure of the Blessed Mother and not me. This is for people to understand the Virgin Mary and to know that we have a Mother in heaven. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a great instrument, and I promise you that She’s not gonna fail us, ’cause She promised us. So, I believe. You gotta have faith.”