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Mix a strict Homeowner’s Association, a slow for-sale housing market and a 3-year-old, and you’ll get a picture of this story making its way around the country:

Kimberly Broffman is a vivacious red-haired thrill seeker who loves to watch NASCAR on TV.

But at 3 1/2 years old, the only vehicle Kimberly operates is her Big Wheel.

Her grandparents don’t let her cruise it down the streets of the Lakes subdivision, off 49th Street near U.S. 19, because the neighborhood association is aware that Kimberly is living in the 55-plus community and has sued to force the child out.

Judie and Jimmy Stottler, the grandparents, live west of Tampa in a housing subdivision specified for people aged 55 and older. The community prohibits residents younger than 18 years old. But the Stottlers took in their granddaughter when their daughter mixed herself up with drugs and could no longer care for her then-6-month-old. The Stottlers admit they’ve been violating the community’s rules for three years. But they say they have limited incomes and can’t afford to move until their house sells at a “decent price.”

After signing an agreement with the HOA in April 2005 saying they’d comply with the rules by October 2006, the couple listed their two-bedroom home for $189,000, but didn’t find any takers in the slow market conditions in the region. They dropped their price by $10,000 six months ago, but have had no serious interest. Finally, the HOA sued the Stottlers last month.

What do you think about this story? Is this an extreme case of HOA rule enforcement? Should the slow market and the Stottlers’ situation spark sympathy from the HOA, or do the Stottlers deserve the suit? Does this bear any symbolism for HOAs elsewhere? Send me your thoughts.

KELLY BENNETT

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