Bucks County Woman Fined By Homeowner’s Association For Colored Christmas Lights

By Oren Liebermann

DOYLESTOWN STATION, Pa. (CBS) — Marie Buonanno has boxes of holiday lights to decorate her house. She already has one tree up in her living room and a nativity scene. But this holiday season, she would not dare decorate outside.

“It is very disappointing that we can’t celebrate the Christmas holiday the way that we religiously choose to,” says Buonanno.

Her home only has a holiday wreath on the door, since the Doylestown Station Condominium Association told her the bylaws do not allow colored Christmas lights. Last year, she was fined $400, $10 for each day her lights were up. But she says she was the only one slapped with a fine.

“One of my neighbors that I spoke to a few days ago, who decorates with multicolored lights, says he never got a letter of warning or a fine.”

Only white, non-blinking lights are allowed outside. And you can only put up a single white, blue, or orange light in your windows. Neighbors collected 62 signatures to ask the Association board to allow colored Christmas lights. In response, the Association sent out a survey.

Out of 38 total responses, 19 voted for white lights, 14 voted for colored non-blinking lights, and 5 voted for colored blinking. The board said the vote was 19-14 against colored lights, interpreting the 5 votes as a separate category.

“As long as it’s tasteful,” says neighbor Marc Udell, “let the community do what the community is going to do.”

No one answered the door at the Association president’s house. Some neighbors say they like the look of white lights.

“Some colored lights are pretty and they have their place in neighborhoods, but you never really know how far people are going to go with them,” says Jeff Edwards.

It will be a holiday of white lights for Buonanno and her neighborhood. She says for now she will miss her colored lights and the holiday cheer they brought to her home.

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  • Mike Trotter

    I think they stopped counting at 19 because they would have had tp get naked to count past twenty.

    and who would want to see that???

  • Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs

    Follow the rules. Get 10 million white lights and light up the yard and house and roof and all!!!

    • mb

      Excellent ideat!!!!

  • ab

    The vote tabulation was rigged – there was no option for whilte, blinking lights pkus the issue was all-white versus white plus other colors.

    The blinking and non-blinking colored votes should be combined – but that would mean allowing other colors, so no surprise this was not done.

    • Jared

      Thank you, the survey was biased, and therefore the wrong conclusion was drawn. I would appeal the decision based on the injustice in the vote tabulation.

    • emgee

      You’re both wrong. They weren’t votes, it was an informal survey, they can’t change the bylaw based on that survey. It was essentially 50/50 and you’d need 66% of the community to be in favor of the change in an OFFICIAL vote, not a survey. They could still take his to a resolution to the community.

  • MandoZink

    I am an atheist who doesn’t even care much for these holidays. I do know that it gives many people feelings of warmth and more. I cannot imagine how such petty regulations could have been put into place. Why would anyone care? Let it be colorful if it makes someone happy. I bet rainbows must really annoy their HOA.

    • Praying4U

      It takes a lot of FAITH to be an ahteist.

      • amber

        this story is about christmas lights, not trying to pray for people or “save” them…

      • Prayforyourself

        Doesn’t take any faith at all to be an atheist.

  • Jon Anthony

    ummm…should we even be calling them “colored” lights? That’s grounds for some kind of racial bias lawsuit no?

  • rs

    All white lights are boring!

  • smartmusican

    Unfortunately,this is as ridiculous as it sounds and should be no brainer.But ,when you live somewhere that you give some homeowners assn. power over you and what you can do with your own house,this is what happens.You end up with a board of power hungry idiots that like to come up with arbitrary rules just to show that they are in charge.Thank you for another story about how people are going out of their way to ruin christmas.

  • Livilla Praetoria

    Christmas as brought to you by a passel of jagoffs. Hope Santa gives them all coal—and not the kind you buy at Tiffanys. Bet they’re all Thugs, too.

    • smartmusican

      I did not know that Tiffanys sold coal…BUT I AGREE WITH YOU.

  • for red white and blue lights

    Hey…in the spirit of OWL (occupy wall street) perform your own occupy. That movement should empower us all that we have the freedom of speech, expression and religion and not allow those rights to be taken away by anyone…put up the blinkin colored lights and sue anyone who says you cannot. Yu cannot give up your constitutional rights and others cannot take them away.

  • John Barnard

    H.O.A-Hostile Obsessive Anal

  • jim

    hoa’s need to be outlawed!

  • Brenda Coale

    What happened to the country I grew upin where people were interested in things with a purpose?????? This issue is rediculous! A place is worried about the color of lights???? What next? An order of what kind of flowers to plant? And Albro take a chill pill. There is therapy for anger like yours honey!

    • eva68

      HOAs determine all of that stuff (flowers, paint etc). My mother-in-law lives in a town like that..YUCK!

  • Katie

    Who on earth would buy a place where a committee can decide what your house looks like down to the color of light bulbs you can use. Is this not still America? You’d have to be nuts to go along with this mind set.

    (Living in the country and free to express myself whatever way I see fit!)

    • emgee

      Why? Well, I can’t answer that, but they DID! Why do people choose to get driver’s licenses when they will knowingly be subjected to the traffic laws in the state they drive in?

      • amber

        please do not relate traffic SAFETY laws to the bylaws of the HOA… they are very much unrelated. the HOA has no “real” reason why they feel the way they do about colored lights… you can’t hit a family in your car and speed off trying to pretend it never happened for a reason. see my point??

  • Jim

    You think that is bad, there are some deeded/gated communities where you can’t even display a flag or any decorations at all. I agree, get involved.in the HOA or whatever you have. Or make yourself aware before buyingi. Take a good look around the developement. See if you can deal with a sterile ticky tacky all in a row environment. Some like it, some don’t. Personally, I prefer variety, espaecially during holidays. Again, outlandish displays or poorly maintained homes would need some kind of standards.

  • Jeff

    Lets take some more of CHRISTMAS away from America. We are talking about Christmas lights not siding or trash in the yard, etc.
    What is wrong with america? Part of it is stupid a– Associations.

  • Jared

    I would appeal the decision since the board does not know how to conduct statistical analysis of survey results correctly. First of all, they split the colored vote by separating them into two categories, blinking and non-blinking. Why did they not separate the white light vote into blinking and non-blinking? For the colored lights 14+5 = 19. So the vote is 19 to 19 for white and colored lights showing an indifference between the two colors since there is no statistically significant difference between the two which can be shown by conducting a t-test. Therefore, both white and colored lights should be allowed EQUALLY. SMDH learn statistics!!!!!

    • emgee

      It has nothing to do with that, Jared. It was a survey and the bylaws can’t be changed based on the survey. The Board would have to put it to a vote to the community and they would need 66% in favor of the change to change the bylaw.

  • sherry

    unfortunately its not always disclosed to the buyer that the home they are purchasing is in a neighborhood with a HOA.

    • Teri

      It is where I live. You are required to sign off on a copy of the bylaws at closing. And, in most cases, HOA fees are escrowed like taxes/insurance.

    • Red Buttons

      Yes it is. You buy a condo and you are NOT buying anything outside, you are buying the inside space. The condo rules are available to anyone buying there, of course. You choose not to read them it is your own fault. You want a yard and space around your home to do what you want with, buy a house, not a condo.

    • emgee

      It’s PA State Law that you get a copy BEFORE you close, sherry. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Albro

    Baloney! this lady tries to make this a religious issue: I’m pretty sure that the bible never mentions strings of colored light bulbs! YOU signed the agreement with the HOA, so stand up like an adult and abide by your agreement.

    • amber

      you wouldn’t abide by the same agreement if they told you that YOU couldn’t have a certain thing on or in YOUR house when YOU paid or are paying for it. the fact that the HOA is even a real thing is absolutely ridiculous… just shows that when the PTA’s kids get too old for the parents to still be a part of the PTA, they are still trying to control something. absolutely RIDICULOUS! makes me honestly ashamed to say those people are americans. if i was that lady i’d take the fine over them telling me what to do any day..

    • The Grinch lives here

      The HOA needs to abide by their by-laws as well. They can’t selectively and arbitrarily enforce their own rules. The HOA didn’t play by their own rules here…they wouldn’t allow the homeowners who followed the proscribed process to obtain the correct number of signatures in order to allow them to begin the process of repealing this silly rule. The HOA Board is hypocritical and mean-spirited on this issue.

    • jim


    • emgee

      Amen, Albro!

      Grinch, you have no idea what you’re talking about. That is NOT the prescribed process to change a bylaw in the state of PA. The Board must put it to a vote to the community, which in turn must have 66% in favor of the change to change the bylaw. A resident running house-to-house brow-beating her neighbors into signing a petition doesn’t hold any water at all. It’s meaningless.

      Amber – Yeah, ya would abide by the bylaw because you’ll get fined if you DON’T. Just like they are. They agree to all the rules and bylaws when they bought in there. TOUGH COOKIES!

      • amber

        you made some comments about people needing to re-read something…. well emgee, you need to take your own advice, I never said that i would abide by the bylaw, nor did i say i wouldn’t get fined. I simply stated that out of principal, i would take the fine over abiding by their lame excuse to tell people what they can and can’t do. i understand that the only way around it is to go to the meetings and say your peace, or simply don’t live there. if i felt i absolutely had to live there, then i would gladly take the fine over abiding any day :) so you can take you tough cookies back and crawl back under the rock you came from.

  • Jeanne Smith

    Whites only? Sounds like racism to me. :-p

  • Peter

    What happened to the freedom of expression? Who’s rights are being violated here.

  • Dave

    What a bunch of snooty people… Home associations are ridiculous in the first place… I will never move to an area that has a home association…. Next they’ll be complain how big her flag pole is or is she even allowed one. This whole thing is RIDICULOUS… Merry Christmas…. What Holiday Cheer in that neighborhood…

    • retphxfire

      I bet it’s too late… most HOA’s already don’t allow flag poles. I lived in an HOA community for years. For the most part they were fair, with a few questionable actions. By fair, I mean they were equal in their ‘policing’. However, anyone with a swingset in the back yard that could be viewed, in any way, from the street was cited,.just an example of how people need to actually READ the by-laws before buying.

      • Lokari

        More to the point, an example of how people need to get involved in their HOA. Just as with government, it exists to serve the members, all of whom have the right to suggest and vote on changes to the covenants. Anyone who doesn’t show up for HOA meetings and participate has no right to complain when they don’t like the rules.

    • Albro

      You wont move to a home with an HOA? She had the same right, but chose to sign the contract!

  • Phil

    If 62 people are for it, perhaps the community should have 2 distinct areas, one for White only, and one for Colored only.

    • Richard Mallett


    • Teri

      Love it!

  • M.

    The laws are for some and NOT for all!
    If you think it’s bad here, you don’t want to move into Delaware!
    “The Good Old Boys State”!!

  • Alice

    The association is an _ss! Leave the poor woman alone. She should do whatever she wants. It’s her home!

    • jim

      100% right!

    • emgee

      No it’s not, Alice! She owns the inside, NOT the outside. Welcome to condo HOA living!

  • Suburbia

    Move if you don’t like it! You’re the one who bought the house and signed the contract with the association. These stories always come up but there really isn’t a story here. Just like in the housing crisis, you should have known what you were getting into!

    • Melody O

      I agree. This is precisely why I avoided those neighborhoods like the plague when house shopping. I will decide what I want my house to look like, and it doesn’t cost me a zillion dollars a year to do it.

      • amber

        @Jared- very very good point. i think a statistics class would do them more than some good.

      • Lokari

        @Amber, I am not on the HOA board, so I am not deciding for anyone what is tasteful. Our rules were initially set in place by the builder (who had a vested interest in making sure all the properties were sold), and afterwards have been loosened in several cases by community vote.

        That last bit – community vote – is important. Anyone living in an HOA has a vote, and has the right to suggest changes to their rules, which the whole community can then vote on. It’s a microcosm of the democratic system.

        The criteria for ‘tasteful’ generally comes down to “Will this hurt my neighbors’ property values?” I see the comments about “This is America, I should be able to do what I want”, and that’s true – to a point. You can do what you want, right up to the point where it starts to impact someone else. If my neighbor paints his house in stripes, or parks junk vehicles on his lawn, he is having a direct, negative impact on the value of my home, both in the enjoyment I derive from living there, and in the actual cash value I might get should I try to sell.

        So, you tell me why your rights trump mine?

      • Jared

        Yes community vote is important, however in this case the community vote means nothing when the HOA show a bias by skewing the results of the vote and performing an improper analysis, therefore drawing the wrong conclusion.
        The vote tally was incorrect, and they should correct the fact that the white to color vote was a tie; 19-19, therefore of the 38 individuals surveyed, the results indicate indifference. So both white and colored lights should be equally allowed.
        By splitting the vote and treating a portion of the colored light votes as a separate group, they introduced a bias into the survey results. Maybe it should be a requirement that the HOA board take a statistics class, especially pertaining to administering surveys.

      • Lokari

        My HOA fees in a community of 300 homes is about $120 a year. It pays for maintenance of the common areas (which look quite nice), and has very reasonable rules. Can my neighbor change his siding to blue and yellow stripes? No, thank goodness. But he can change it to just about anything a reasonable person would consider ‘tasteful’. And we’re all middle-class folks, with a pretty even mix of blue- and white-collar workers.

      • amber

        @LOKARI..why do you people get to decide what’s “tasteful”? i’m pretty sure your idea of tasteful is not the same as mine. i might find your idea of it as horribly boring and you might find my idea of it as terribly white-trash… see what i mean?? who made you guys god of the neighborhood??

    • emgee

      Ugh, Jared, if you knew what you were talking about at all, you might have a point, but you don’t. The Board survey WASN’T A VOTE! It was a survey! The Board can’t change bylaws based on a survey.

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