Homeowners association upholds decision on Cooper's playhouse

jkegley@herald-leader.comFebruary 8, 2012 

The Andover Forest Homeowners Association upheld its decision that a Lexington family's playhouse for their 3-year-old son with cerebral palsy violates deed restrictions.

However, the attorney for the homeowners association said the board of directors would allow the playhouse to stay in the family's yard for the time being.

"There has not been a denial of the requested accommodation" for the playhouse, attorney Nathan Billings said. "There is a continued temporary exemption of the playhouse pending the parties mediating the dispute or a court determining what information the association is entitled to."

In April, Dr. George and Tiffiney Veloudis put the playhouse in their side yard for their son, Cooper. The Veloudis family has said the physician-prescribed playhouse aids in Cooper's physical therapy. But the shed-like structure violated deed restrictions on properties in the posh Andover Forest neighborhood.

The board ordered the Veloudis family to remove it, leading to widespread debate via social media networks Facebook and Twitter after the feud was first reported. The debate also inspired the proposal of a bill in the state House of Representatives. The bill — known as Cooper's Law — failed to make it out of a House panel last week, but the House committee reversed itself Wednesday and approved Cooper's Law. The proposed law would nullify deed restrictions on small outdoor structures deemed medically necessary for children 12 and younger.

The order to remove the playhouse was postponed while the Veloudises sought an "accommodation," essentially an exception to the deed restrictions, using federal Fair Housing Act guidelines.

According to a statement from the homeowners association's board of directors, which was emailed last week to property owners in the Andover Forest neighborhood, the Veloudises have not given the board medical records to prove the structure is necessary in Cooper's therapy, or why the therapy equipment such as "steps, ladders and essentials" inside it couldn't be relocated.

Kimberly Garrison, the Veloudis' attorney, said the family has given the board all it needs to make a decision.

"We gave them three doctor or therapist statements requesting this playhouse to be viewed as a reasonable and medically necessary," she said. "I don't know what else they want."

Tiffiney Veloudis said the family would not provide more detailed, private medical records.

"We can't give them the medical records. They're not qualified to read them," she said.

However, Billings said board members were not seeking to review pages of MRI results or other sensitive documents. He said they had requested a copy of the prescription for the playhouse, which the Veloudises have not provided. He said the prescriptions came from doctors in Cincinnati and were not written until December, months after the playhouse was installed.

Without a prescription, the board was unable to determine whether the playhouse was necessary, and it has not been able to make a final decision, according to the email sent to homeowners. Billings said the board was seeking a ruling from a court to determine what medical records it would be entitled to view.

"As the board has not received sufficient information to complete its investigation and therefore to consider the requested accommodation with full information, the board is unable to determine whether ... the otherwise prohibited 'Cooper's House,' is 'reasonable' and 'necessary,'" the board said in its email.

The board said it was required by law to uphold deed restrictions, which were written when developers built the neighborhood and could not be changed.

"After consulting with two respected real estate attorneys, the HOA board was advised that it can no more legally change the deed restrictions related to enclosed structures than it can alter the property boundaries in each deed," the email said.

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