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Condo residents might ban children

New Tampa's 240-unit North Oaks complex may become child free. Residents will discuss the matter Tuesday.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- Some of the residents at North Oaks condominiums are fed up with the children they say are responsible for the noise and vandalism around the community's pool.

Their solution: Get rid of them. Gradually.

Residents of the 240-unit complex on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard will meet Tuesday to discuss a proposal that would forbid renting or selling units to families with children. Families already living there with children under age 19 would be allowed to stay.

North Oaks was never designed for families with children, according to the association's August newsletter, and is "experiencing the grow(ing) pains of over-crowded conditions and bored, unsupervised children."

The idea, which raises sticky legal questions, doesn't please everyone, especially residents with kids.

"It (is) a dark day for our country when the rights of families with children perish and people find the pitter-patter of little feet offensive," said resident W.F. Casey Ebsary, a lawyer and the parent of a 5-year-old.

Tom Lewis, association manager for North Oaks, said the association's board of directors will decide whether the proposed ban deserves a vote.

If they say yes, at least 75 percent of the condominium owners would have to approve the change before it could be implemented, he said.

Hillsborough County's Human Rights Ordinance states that housing discrimination against families with children is illegal, but the issue is not clear-cut.

Sun City Center in south Hillsborough requires at least one member of a household to be a minimum of 55 years old, and no one under the age of 19 can live in the community.

As a designated retirement community, Sun City is exempt from standard federal housing rules.

The residents of North Oaks include young families, professional couples, University of South Florida students and some retirees.

Twenty-five years ago, residents of a Fort Lauderdale condominium community sued their association after it banned children under age 12.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled the practice was legal in condominiums intended for the elderly, provided that the rules were uniformly enforced.

In 1988, Congress passed the Fair Housing Amendment Act, which defined elderly communities as those where 80 percent of homes have at least one resident over the age of 55.

But there are questions about whether condominiums, because they are not single-family homes, must abide by the act.

-- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. John Balz can be reached at 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com.

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