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Michael and Tina v. Churchville Greene Homeowner's Association

February 22, 2011

MICHAEL AND TINA CARPENTER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHURCHVILLE GREENE HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC., BETH BIECK, TOM BIONDOLILLO, HOPE JOHNSON, GARY HUTCHERSON, BARB KOEPKE, PAMELA HILL, CHARLES HAWKINS, PAT CIPOLLA, RICK WALDO, AND REALTY PERFORMANCE GROUP, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, Michael and Tina Carpenter ("Plaintiffs" or "the Carpenters"), bring this action pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., alleging that the Defendants, the Churchville Greene Homeowner's Association, Inc., ("HOA"), Beth Bieck, Tom Biondolillo, Hope Johnson, Gary Hutcherson, Barb Koepke, Pamela Hill, Charles Hawkins, Pat Cipolla, Rick Waldo (collectively, the "Individual Defendants"), and Realty Performance Group, Inc. ("Realty"), (collectively, "Defendants"), discriminated against them in the terms and conditions of their housing on the basis of Plaintiffs' disabilities. Specifically, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants denied them a reasonable accommodation with respect to disabled guest parking and initially denied them permission to construct a reasonable modification (a concrete pad) to their property to provide them with better wheelchair access to their home. Plaintiffs further allege that the initial denial of the concrete pad was in retaliation for Plaintiffs' having filed the instant action with respect to their disabled guest parking claim.*fn1

Shortly after answering Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, Defendants filed this motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56"). Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' reasonable modification claim is moot and that the Plaintiffs have not asserted a triable claim against the Individual Defendants and Realty.*fn2 Plaintiffs oppose Defendants' motion and argue that they have asserted triable claims against all Defendants and that there are genuine issues of material fact with respect to their claim for a reasonable modification.*fn3 Further, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants motion should be denied because they have timely requested additional discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (formerly Rule 56(f))("Rule 56(d)"). For the reasons set forth below, this Court dismisses Plaintiffs' reasonable modification claim as moot and grants the Plaintiffs additional time to conduct discovery with respect to the remaining claims against the Individual Defendants and Realty. Accordingly, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted with respect to Plaintiffs' reasonable modification claim and denied without prejudice to refile with respect to Plaintiffs' claims against the Individual Defendants and Realty.

BACKGROUND

The Carpenters are a married couple, both with severe disabilities that require them to use motorized wheelchairs. They reside in the Churchville Green housing development (the "housing development") in Churchville, New York. The Carpenters purchased their home in the housing development in 2000. As residents in the housing development, the Carpenters are members of the HOA, which is governed by a board of directors, which, during the relevant time period, was comprised of the Individual Defendants.

Plaintiffs claim that the HOA forbids parking on the private roads in the housing development and that the homeowners' guests are required to park in a "remote parking lot." On multiple occasions, Plaintiffs claim that they have had guests who are incapable of walking the distance from the parking lot to their home because of mobility disabilities. For this reason, Plaintiffs have, on several occasions, instructed their guests to park on the private road in front of their home. However, Plaintiffs claim that they received warning letters from the HOA regarding their failure to follow the "no parking" rule and that they are unable to have mobility-disabled guests at their home as a result.

In July 2009, Plaintiffs, through their attorney, requested a variance from the HOA from the no-parking rule. Plaintiffs claim that the HOA decided that, due to fire safety concerns, the only accommodation they could provide was to designate two handicapped parking spots in the parking lot. Plaintiffs allege that this is not a "reasonable accommodation," as the parking lot is too far for disabled guests. Plaintiffs also claim that the HOA has enforced the parking regulation unevenly and that the HOA holds a yearly community function where many vehicles are allowed to park on the street. Based on Plaintiffs' claim that they were denied a reasonable accommodation in parking, they filed the instant law suit on November 2, 2009.

Within a few weeks of filing this law suit, a dispute arose between the parties regarding a modification to the Plaintiffs home. While making other improvements to their home, which were approved by the HOA, Plaintiffs' contractor offered to replace broken paving stones in their yard to make it easier to access their home by wheelchair.

On November 9, 2009, Plaintiffs requested a variance from the HOA to replace the paving stones with a concrete pad. The HOA board met on November 11, 2009 and voted to initially deny the request, pending their request for more information about the proposed modification. Over the course of several weeks the parties' attorneys continued to discuss the matter in an attempt to resolve the dispute without intervention from the Court.

On November 20, 2009, Plaintiffs' attorney sent this Court a letter detailing the issue and asking this Court to intervene to assist the parties in resolving their dispute quickly, as the fast-approaching winter weather might impede the installation of the concrete pad. Plaintiffs claimed that the HOA was improperly delaying the installation of the concrete pad. The HOA maintained that it had not ultimately denied the request and was merely seeking further information and additional help from a local architect who had assisted the HOA with other projects. After discussing the matter with the parties, this Court Ordered the contractor to complete the installation. This Court specifically stated, "Given all the circumstance, and the presumed willingness of the [HOA] to accommodate a reasonable request to satisfy the needs of one of the homeowners...I directed the contractor to proceed and complete the job."

On November 24, 2009, this Court issued a letter Order to the parties outlining the above facts and commending the parties for their cooperation in resolving this collateral issue. This Court further stated that the parking claim remained pending, but that this "collateral issue" had been fully resolved.

DISCUSSION

A. Reasonable ...


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