WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Residents at Lake Ridge Commons, a senior living community in Wilmington, are banned from displaying any personal items on their doors, porches, and patios this holiday season.
"This includes, but is not limited to door decorations, wreaths, signs, etc.," property managers wrote to residents in a reminder notice distributed Dec. 1. "Please remove immediately all personal items from entry doors."
According to property management, the controversy started earlier this year when residents posted "offensive and defensive messages" on their doors to other residents and management.
Ann Hanson, president of Excel Property Management, said there was no choice but to ban all items, including holiday wreaths, on doors to preserve the peace.
The prohibition on public decorations had existed in the lease since the community opened in 2012, but residents say it was not enforced until July 2017 when they were first notified in a letter to comply.
"That policy is not intended to hurt the Holiday Season, but to preserve it," Hanson said.
Some residents at Lake Ridge Commons do not support the ban.
"I think it's a shame because it's holiday time," Ann Taylor said. "People are paying their rent. They own that door. To be told we can't put wreaths up is really horrible and a lot of people are upset."
On Nov. 12, residents held a meeting in their multipurpose room to discuss the ban on door decorations. They sent a group letter to property management, asking them to reconsider the ban for the holiday season.
"Moving forward we have been advised by our legal counsel to adhere to our lease to the fullest," Matt Scaparro, director of asset management, responded to the residents, referring to the lease section referenced above banning personal items from doors.
"We sent letters. They refused to honor our request," Taylor said.
Leigh Bowser, who has lived at Lake Ridge Commons since 2012, said Christmas celebrations had been a highlight of his experience at the community until this year.
"We had door decorating contests, wrapping paper covered doors, festive wreaths," Bowser said. "Now Christmas is illegal. Any display of Christmas is banned."
Bowser is defiant, and hung a small wreath on his door to protest the ban.
"It's part of my religion. It's part of my expression. … This could be my last Christmas," Bowser said. "This whole ordeal has taken years off my life."
Residents, including Bowser and Taylor, said they want permission from management to hang holiday decorations.
"The community is full of seniors. For many of them, this could be their last Christmas," Bowser said.