Dispute over gravel path leads to federal probe

HOA orders resident to remove it

A dispute over a 16-inch wide gravel path next to a suburban driveway has turned into an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Michael Groves, a Lakewood Ranch resident in the Summerfield subdivision, installed the rocky road three years ago to help protect his stepson.  Groves, 40, said the idea is to prevent the 15-year-old from hitting his head against the very hard pavement.

The teenager has autism and can suffer from epileptic seizures multiple times during any given month.  Protecting him from an accidental head injury is crucial, Groves said.  An impact on the gravel would disperse the energy from the fall, thus reducing the chance for serious injury.

The only problem:  Groves' Homeowners Association told him to get rid of it.

"HOA's are big bullies in that they don't take into consideration disabilities and the things that go on in people's lives," Groves said.

The Summerfield Riverwalk Village Association declined comment, and instead deferred to an attorney.  Stephen Thompson didn't return phone calls, but he wrote a letter in response to Groves' complaints.

Thompson said the board wasn't informed that Groves needed the gravel path because of a child with a disability.  The letter also stated that the association was reviewing its decision not to allow the path.

Groves said the only reason he's getting a response from his HOA is because he contacted the federal HUD agency with his complaints.  A HUD official wrote that the case is being investigated.

The homeowner said this problem could easily have been avoided if the HOA board simply had a heart about his child's situation.

"Now I feel I'm standing up for people who have been discriminated against," Groves said.

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