RUSKIN, Fla. (WFLA) — Belmont is a sprawling community of new homes in South Hillsborough County. If you zero in on one home on Ivory Drive, you’ll see an American flag flying above another flag with three words.
Those three words have caused quite the stir.
“The first warning came in August. They said I had to take my flag down, it was in violation, the ‘Keep America Great’ flag,” homeowner Melody Swonger told 8 On Your Side.
The homeowner’s association emailed the rules to Swonger. 8 On Your Side obtained a copy of an email written by Gabe Wilson, the director of operations for MEA HOA Properties.
“Any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida in a respectful manner and one portable, removable official flag in a respectful manner, not larger than 4 1/2 feet by 6 feet, which represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard or a POW-MIA flag, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules or requirements of the association,” the email provided to 8 On Your Side says.
To comply, Swonger said she took down the ‘Keep America Great’ flag. Then she and her boyfriend drove around the neighborhood.
“And we saw that there were Cardinals flags up, Seminole flags, Other flags in the yard,” she said.
8 On Your Side checked as well and noticed an array of flags at various homes in Belmont.
“We put the flag back up, because if those flags are still up and they haven’t taken those down – I told them I’d take mine down and be compliant when those are taken down,” Swonger said. “They wrote me back and said they gave 47 citations. They drove around twice a month and said I’m not the only one being targeted. I said, why are these flags still up?”
8 On Your Side wanted to know as well. Reporter Ryan Hughes repeatedly called and emailed Wilson, the director of operations. As of 3 p.m., we have not yet received a response.
In the email to Swonger, Wilson said, “No one is targeting you. We are contracted to tour the association twice a month. The board has us do this once during the day and one [time] at night.”
Swonger explained she was also cited for hanging a political curtain in her office.
Her neighbors do not understand the hoopla.
“You see Canadian flags, you see Israeli flags around here, you see sports flags. You see American flags. I don’t see what’s wrong with seeing another flag under the American flag,” Kim Chapman said.
Swonger believes she is being singled out for her support for President Donald Trump. She said the HOA threatened to fine her $150 a day if the flag does not come down.
She explained all she wants is consistency in her neighborhood.
“Make it the same way for everybody. If it’s one way for me, make it the same way for the people the street over,” she said.
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