News Article Details

Bradenton family battles Harbour Walk HOA

The Herald-Tribune - 8/20/2019

Aug. 19--Mason Morley was born in Russia. His mother was addicted to heroin, so labor was induced. He is autistic.

Mason was adopted by Mike and Michelle Morley when he was 6 months old. They moved to Bradenton from Los Angeles in the spring and bought a nice house in a community called Harbour Walk. Mike is a Gulf War veteran, a Marine and a retired United States marshal who keeps a 20-foot American flag in his yard wherever he lives. He's been shot at, stabbed, injured his back on a helicopter and suffers from hearing loss.

Mason, 9, is a really interesting kid, Mike will tell you. Just the other day they were on their way to school when Mason asked his dad if he knew the Florida Hazmat regulations. Apparently he had been brushing up on them the night before. Once, his father caught him watching a documentary on World War I -- in German. And go ahead, ask him to name a general in the Battle of Guastalla in 1734. He knows things like that.

But Mason needs to get outside, his doctors say. Kick the soccer ball around. Run. Breathe. Be a kid. Do more than memorize generals. But he's prone to wandering. What if he leaves the yard and drowns in the canal? What if he gets hit by a car?

And that's where the fence comes in.

The homeowners association guidelines allow for white iron fences not higher than four feet, not longer than 12. Morley had one built that was 28 feet long, and this is a big problem.

At first Morley told the HOA the extra room was for Bullet, his retired explosives dog. He didn't want to bring Mason into it. But after the HOA denied the fence application, Morley told them the real reason -- his son and his safety. It didn't matter. The fence is in violation. The HOA wants it down.

"The association will not allow your clients to subvert the rules and regulations contained in the Declaration and other governing documents of the Association which they agreed to when they purchased a home in Harbour Walk," wrote Michael Prohidney, the HOA attorney, to Lori Dorman, the family's attorney.

Mike Morley says he has been fined $100 a day for last two months, and lien has been placed on the property. He has filed a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development complaint and is planning a discrimination lawsuit. "I'm not backing down," he said.

This is a tough call. Rules are made to be followed, obviously, and a retired U.S. marshal should understand that better than most. Recently speaking before the HOA, Michelle Morley even said, "We did things out of order."

She also added: "But our focus is, and always will be, what does our son need?"

The HOA guidelines state that distances beyond 12 feet "may be considered." Wouldn't this situation constitute "consideration?" Can't an exception be made for a 50-year-old man who served his country during war for a fence that cannot be seen from the street? Is it really bothering anyone if a 9-year-old autistic boy born to a heroin addict in Russia has a little more room to play safely in his yard?

Then again, there are those pesky rules.

One night, Mason approached Mike and apologized for being autistic and causing so much trouble.

"You're not causing any trouble," Mike assured him. "Why do you say that?"

"Because Mommy and Daddy are talking about the fence again," he said.

Email Chris Anderson at chris.anderson@heraldtribune.com.

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