Askirmish over a patch of artificial turf has turned into a legal war between a homeowner and the Eagle Point Golf Community Homeowners Association.
A lawsuit filed by the association in March against "Captain" W.H.M.J. van der Horst has prompted a counter suit filed this week by the 82-year-old homeowner seeking $500,000 in damages for extreme emotional distress.
Van der Horst thinks most people should be green with envy at how much better his lawn looks than theirs, pointing out a neighborhood filled with brown lawns and brown patches withering in the August sun.
"I can't understand the stupidity of people," van der Horst said.
Van der Horst installed his artificial turf in the summer of 2010, which led to a series of letters and pleas from the association to remove it because it violates community rules.
John Dowdy, president of the homeowners association, said recently that he couldn't discuss the lawsuit.
He said it was filed because the homeowner failed to remove the artificial turf after he was ordered to do so. The lawsuit attempts to collect back fines and penalties, he said.
Dowdy said the association's rules had been reviewed to see whether they could be modified, but artificial turf still is not allowed in the 600-home subdivision.
On March 6, the association approved a resolution that prohibits artificial turf.
But Ron Campbell, who was then association president, sent two homeowners letters advising them that their artificial turf could remain because they were installed before the resolution.
"The board decided to grandfather those two homes and exempt them from the new resolution," he wrote.
Campbell advised a home-owner in the letter that any other artificial turf would not be allowed in the future.
Van der Horst said he didn't receive a similar letter, though he said he sent in plans to the association before installation in 2010.
The lawsuit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court seeks to force van der Horst to remove the artificial turf and install real grass.
In the lawsuit, the association calculates that interest and other penalties amounted to a little less than $10,000 owed by van der Horst.
Christopher Tingey, with the Portland firm of Vial Fotheringham LLP, representing the association, said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.
"We'll let matters in the court play themselves out," he said.
Van der Horst estimates the fees and penalties the homeowner's association says he owes have risen to almost $11,000 because of interest.
"The clock keeps ticking on this case, and the cash register keeps ticking," he said.
Van der Horst, who walks with a limp, said he's a Korean war veteran whose disability prevents him from maintaining a grass lawn, and he says he can't afford to hire a gardener.
When his real lawn turned brown a couple of years ago, he spent $2,500 to install the artificial turf, he said.
Van der Horst said his lawn doesn't require maintenance, and to his eyes it's the best in the neighborhood, which is dotted with foreclosed homes where the front yards have turned brown.
"All these lawns are lousy looking," said van der Horst. "And you think about all the water they put on lawns."