PRESCOTT, ARIZONA — An Arizona homeowners association is ordering a teenage boy whose parents died to leave his grandparents' house because of community age restrictions.
Collin Clabaugh, 15, has nowhere else to go, so grandparents Melodie and Randy Passmore said they may have to sell their house and move.
The Gardens & Courtyards at Willow Creek retirement community requires most residents to be over the age of 55. A lawyer for the association said the community could be sued if it allows Collin to stay.
"I just wish that they would show a little compassion," Melodie said. "He doesn't cause problems. How is it hurting them?"
The possibility of a move comes as the family is still grieving over the sudden deaths of Collin's parents, Melodie said.
Collin's mother, Bonnie, died last year in the hospital after a long illness, Melodie said. Just two weeks later, his father, Clay, took his own life.
Suddenly, Collin was uprooted from his home in California and had to start a new life in Arizona in the middle of the school year, she said.
"I still go to bed and cry. It's still fresh," Melodie said. "I know we'll get through it, and I know that we'll survive it, but we sure as heck don't need all of this on top of it."
Most neighbors don't want Collin to go, she said.
"The majority of people that know him, love him," Melodie said.
Collin doesn't ride his bike or skateboard in the neighborhood because he doesn't want to bother anyone, he said.
Collin said he raked, weeded and planted flowers in one neighbor's yard, put up Christmas lights for another, cared for one's dog and cleaned windows at the church with another. He knows many of the neighbors by their first names.
"I don't want to have to leave because I know this is my grandparents' home and my home," Collin said.
Neighbor Nancy Hillerman said she and other homeowners wrote letters and spoke at an association meeting to ask the board to make an exception for Collin, she said. The story was first reported by Phoenix television station Arizona's Family.
"They are the best neighbors you can imagine," Hillerman said of the Passmores. "He's had to move to a new school and new city and start all over again and now he knows they're going to have to move. That's a big burden to put on a 15-year-old."
Not everyone wants Collin to stay
Although some neighbors want Collin to stay, others don't, the association board's attorney Jason Miller wrote in a letter to the Passmores.
Miller warned that some neighbors have threatened to "take action" to ensure the board enforces the age restrictions if Collin doesn't leave by June 30, 2020, he wrote.
Miller declined an interview with The Arizona Republic but sent a statement.
"The Board appreciates the difficulty of these circumstances but must balance the interests of all parties involved," he wrote in the statement. "Generally, community associations that fail to enforce their residency age restrictions leave themselves open to legal claims from other residents and could even endanger the ability of the association to remain an age restricted community. The Board believes it has appropriately balanced the interests of all parties involved."
The association's covenants say that most residents should be 55 or older and no one living there "permanently" should be under 19.
However, the association board is allowed to make exceptions for younger residents "at its discretion," according to a copy of the 2002 rules reviewed by The Arizona Republic.
Kim Flores, who manages the association for Hoamco, did not return a call for comment. Board President Dennis Hoffman and three other board members also did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Board member Linda Bailey said some residents support Collin staying, while others don't.
"It's a touchy situation," Bailey said.
A stressful decision
The Passmores said they don't know what to do.
The family can't afford a legal battle, but it could be difficult to move, Melodie said.
The Passmores live on Social Security checks and Randy's carpenter pension, Melodie said. And, she said, the terms of their home loans could make it difficult to find a new place. Packing and hauling boxes would be difficult after Randy's three back surgeries, she said.
Collin said he hopes the association will change its mind so he can stay.
"We let them know all the circumstances, but they still are stuck to that rule. And I don't think that's the right thing to do morally," Collin said. "If I was in that position, I wouldn't say you have to get out because it's the rule. I'd make an exception for anyone who needed an exception."