COLUMBIA — Following a yearlong court battle, a Boone County Circuit judge has denied a petition for an injunction filed by the Vanderveen Homeowner’s Association against resident Heather Linneman over her in-home preschool.
In the Sept. 28 decision, the judge also ruled that the association was responsible for related legal fees.
The association filed the request against the Linnemans’ Little Wonders Preschool on July 15, 2009, marking the start of a case that lasted over a year.
Brian Benter, a Vanderveen resident and former homeowner's association treasurer, called the case a “lose-lose situation” for both the Linnemans and the association.
Although the association was given the option to appeal, Stephanie Sinn, the association's new president, and David Wilson, who just stepped down as president, said the group would not seek to continue the case.
“The judge has spoken and that’s what we’re going to go with,” said Sinn, who was vice president during the case.
Heather Linneman said she was just glad the case was over. She became pregnant and had her child during the case, which made the situation more stressful, she said.
She said she doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the board because “they did what they had to do.”
In October 2003, Heather and Taylor Linneman bought a house in the Vanderveen Crossing neighborhood at 4110 Treetop Lane. The neighborhood has a covenant that details rules and regulations for its residents, specifically naming “day care centers” as one of several prohibited in-home businesses.
In 2004, association member Pat Bess wrote a letter to the Linnemans saying they were violating a specific section of the covenant, according to the defendants’ brief. Heather Linneman said she and her husband were assured by their builder, Steve Herigon, that their plans for a preschool would be permitted.
“We always thought we were OK,” Heather Linneman said. “The builder gave us permission.”
The association agreed to “drop the issue of the day care center” on Sept. 15, 2005, as long as the Linnemans agreed:
- to get written confirmation from Steve Herigon that he had given the Linnemans permission to operate the preschool.
- that they would not advertise their services on their property.
- and to adhere to all R-1 zoning requirements of Columbia.
Little Wonders Preschool is licensed by the state as a preschool, not a day care, according to the defendants’ brief. The two are different and abide by different rules — for example, day cares can only have up to four children and preschools are allowed up to 10, the brief said.
The Linnemans said they complied with all requests and continued to operate their preschool.
On April 15, 2009, the Linnemans said they received a letter from the association giving them 90 days to cease and desist, followed a few days later by a letter from association attorney Julia Grus removing the 90-day deadline.
The association also said Herigon had no authority to approve the Linnemans’ plans for a preschool in their home.
Wilson said the board heard about a violation and a complaint and had to respond to uphold the covenant.
“It was a simple matter,” he said.
According to court documents, residents Troy Stegeman, Harish Vanmali and Diana Parker all testified that they had no problems with the preschool.
In addition to the injunction, the association wanted attorney’s fees of $7,000 covered.
The association was concerned that if it lost the case the strength of the covenant would be affected. Wilson said he doesn’t think this applies to this case and has confidence in his neighborhood’s covenant.
Wilson said his resignation on Tuesday was unrelated to the case. He said he had been planning to step down since his term started last year.