I've never been a fan of homeowners associations. I've always felt that if you pay the money to buy your house, then you should be able to decorate it the way you want within reason.

Then again, I'm a fan of individuality and not conformity. But there is an issue that the HOA of the Equestra at Colts Neck Crossing in Howell shouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. That's what Mike Burtt, a veteran, wants to install on his front garden to display the American flag — a pole. They actually denied him this request.

Burtt pays $320 a year to the HOA and says he was told that he needed to get at least 120 signatures from neighbors to get possible approval, the Asbury Park Press reports. Instead, he got 164 and they still said no. Are they kidding? Do they feel the American flag would take away from the beauty of the neighborhood?

Burtt took his petition and formal request to the homeowners association in May and they said they would consider it, only to come back later with a rejection email, Erin Vogt reports for NJ 101.5.

Burtt even got an attorney and found a law that backs him up. He cites the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states that an HOA “may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent an association member from displaying the U.S. flag on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”

Burtt took that to the HOA and their response a week later he received a lengthy email on July 31 repeating the denial, but offering a three-part compromise. It included installing a new flagpole in another area of the community, forming a flagpole committee to oversee it, and helping Burtt find a stronger bracket to keep the flag attached to his home. It also set a 15-day deadline for Burtt to either remove the flag he put in the front garden or engage in a dispute resolution program.

So to recap, rather than let a veteran fly the American flag on a 10-foot pole in his front garden, which is OK with 164 neighbors, the homeowners association of the Equestra at Colts Neck Crossing gated community would rather have him engage in a dispute resolution program. I say go for it! What could be more American than fighting for our flag?

Here's hoping that Star Spangled Banner yet waves o'er the land of the free, home of the brave.

A headline on an earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the town Burtt lives in.

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