By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary Estates Homeowners Association caused a minor neighborhood stir when some residents were asked about religious-themed holiday signage in their yards.

It didn’t take long for some residents to start responding to requests to remove the signs on a social media site, nextdoor.com, and the disagreements grew from there. The board has since backed away from the decision to act on sign code enforcement for this holiday season.

HOA President Ray Straughan said the five-member board was attempting to respond to objections to some of the signs placed on properties within the north Keizer subdivision, particularly when there were not other “Christmas-y” decorations accompanying it. Straughan said an employee of the HOA was tasked by the five-member board with asking residents whether they knew about Convenant, Conditions, and Restrictions that require McNary Estates homeowners to apply for permission to display signs in their yard, but that wires got crossed in the execution.

Some residents were contacted last week regarding signs with messages like “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Christmas Jesus’ Birth – When God Came to Earth” and asked to remove them while other decorations were not singled out as violations. One resident said that, to her knowledge, no one in the neighborhood had ever been approached to remove signs supporting athletic teams, name plates or other common lawn decor.

Straughan, in a statement supplied to the Keizertimes, said the intention was for all violations of the signs rules were going to be addressed.

In January, the HOA board updated its architectural manual to address “excessive ornamentation,” but the section includes a carve out for seasonal holiday decorations saying only that they must be removed from the property within two weeks after the holiday.

Another section of the CC&Rs, which deals specifically with signs prohibits anything larger 18-by-24 inches without permission of the board.

Straughan said no one contacted board members about their dissatisfaction before the issue ended up exploding on social media and the intent was only to make residents aware of the language in their HOA contract and to survey the extent of the issue within the neighborhood. Since the notices were made by the employee, the board has still only received one request for permission to leave a sign in place.

Asking residents to remove religious-themed signs is contrary to a legal opinion –  posted on the HOA website in January 2017 – on the types of sign enforcement allowed under the law. It was prepared by attorney Kevin Harker.

“McNary has two options: 1) enforce the sign provision contained in the CC&Rs, or 2) amend the CC&Rs to authorize other types of signs. If the Board decides to enforce its current sign provision in the CC&Rs, it must be done uniformly. In other words, there can’t be an exception for certain types of signs (“Bring the Troops Home”) and a prohibition on others (“Jesus Christ is our Savior”),” the opinion states.

The board isn’t taking any further action on the matter, but plans to revisit it in the future, Straughan said.