COLUMBIA – The board of Vanderveen Crossing Homeowners' Association is suing Heather Linneman and her husband, Taylor, for running a preschool out of their home.
Linneman started Little Wonders Preschool in 2003 after she and her husband bought the house from Steve Herigon of Herigon Construction. They bought it with the intention of running a day care and renovated the basement accordingly.
Now the homeowners' association is suing the Linnemans for breaking the association's covenants.
The covenants of the homeowners' association state that "permitted home occupations shall not include barber shops, beauty shops, shoe or hat repair shops, tailoring shops or any type of pick-up stations or similar commercial activities or any day care centers, residential care centers, nursing schools, or play schools."
Linneman's day care, which serves 13 children, is licensed by the state.
Heather Linneman said that when she bought her home Herigon told her that he was "in charge" and gave the Linnemans permission to operate the day care even though it ran against provisions of the covenants.
But in 2004, Linneman received a letter from the homeowners association board stating that she had to close the preschool unless she complied with three requests:
- Getting Herigon's signature stating that he had given verbal approval to Linneman to start the preschool;
- Having no signs in the front yard of the house indicating a preschool; and
- Keeping the outside of the house neat and orderly.
She did all three and said she heard nothing further from the board.
By April, however, the homeowners association told Linneman that Herigon never had the right to allow her to run the day care and that she had to close it. Her refusal to do so prompted the lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial in Boone County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Linneman said representatives of the association board told her that they came back because there had been a complaint from a resident that the preschool was affecting the sale of houses in the neighborhood. Linneman, however, said she has heard nothing but support from her neighbors and, to her knowledge, every house that's been put up for sale has found a buyer.
She was not allowed to see the complaint in writing, she said.
Representatives from the association didn't want to talk about details of the case. Their lawyer, Ron Sweet of Oliver Walker Wilson LLC, declined to comment.
"I don't try my cases in the press. I try them in court," Sweet said.
Board President David Wilson called the lawsuit a "regrettable situation."
"I'm sorry it's come up," he said. "We're duty-bound to enforce the covenants as judiciously as possible. It's a tough situation that we don't want to be in."
Wilson said he knows how the lawsuit is affecting the Linnemans and that there's nothing personal about it.
"The board is all volunteers; we all try to do the best job we can to uphold the covenants."
According to the association's covenants, the party who loses the lawsuit will have to pay attorney fees for both sides.