BOWIE, Md. - A Bowie man recently won a seven-year long court case against his homeowner's association over a $500 mailbox after a Prince George's County judge ruled the homeowner's association improperly forced residents to install the pricey mailboxes.
The court case was no doubt controversial, costing both sides tens of thousands of dollars. It is also why the vandalism in this gated Bowie community is thought to be an inside job.
"It seems to be a strange coincidence that we win this court case and then suddenly something like this happens," said homeowner Dr. Keith Strong.
If you drive around the upscale Woodmoor neighborhood in Bowie, you will immediately notice one mailbox stand out from the rest, especially now that it is lying on the ground. Strong is convinced the smashed wood of his mailbox post is not the work of some pesky teenagers, but of someone who lives nearby.
"I think they have serious problems frankly," he said.
Since 2009, the retired solar physicist has been fighting his homeowner's association in court after the board passed a regulation requiring all residents to install a $500 mailbox.
Strong spent $33,000 in legal fees. This past January, a judge ruled in his favor.
"There is nothing in the bylaws that allowed the homeowner's association to rescind an already approved architectural design," said Strong. "That is what the judge eventually agreed with. He said it was a slippery slope and where does that slope end?"
To celebrate his victory, Strong installed a $35 mailbox instead. But this past Monday morning, someone smashed it to pieces while he wasn't home.
"A lot of people have come up and said congratulations for standing up for us," he said. "Some people even offered to help pay our legal expenses, so we have had quite a bit of support from the neighborhood. But obviously some people, particularly those on the board, are very angry with us for having the temerity to stand up to them."
The vandals also shattered Strong's sense of security in his neighborhood of 12 years. It has left him disappointed his fight for what is right caused such a rift.
"I think actually the heart of this whole problem really is that the rules about what the homeowner's associations can and can do need to be improved," Strong said. "People in Annapolis need to have some sort of bill of homeowner's rights to say what homeowner's associations can and can't do and what rights a homeowner has because that is not clear."
Strong does plan on either fixing that mailbox or replacing it with a similar one as the judge has allowed him to do. He is also offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest as the crime is a federal offense.