For reasons known only to those embroiled in the dispute, flags and flagpoles seem to bring out passion in people. Flags evoke patriotism (Old Glory), defiance (Stars & Bars), pride (college), decoration (fall, spring), respect for the dead (half mast), warning (storms) and mirth (cocktail hour). There are numerous attitudes and messages flags can invoke and there seems to be no end to the options.

To the flag flyer, the right of free expression means the right to wave a flag. Homeowner associations generally have the right to control the architectural and design of the community and often restrict flags and flagpoles. This causes certain residents and the HOA to clash at times. But there is more to flags and flagpoles than the look.

Flags not only wave, they flap. And when they flap, they snap. Flagpoles, even when flags aren't being flown, use a rope to raise and lower the flag. Those ropes often hang loose. When the wind picks up, the ropes clatter against the pole. All this snapping and clattering can disturb the neighbors. So the flag controversy often involves noise complaints as often as the right to free speech.

Fortunately, American ingenuity and technology has come up with a solution to the look and noise issues. A number of companies now offer telescoping flagpoles which recess into the ground. (See uncommonusa.com) These installations are permanent yet permit the pole to be hidden when not in use. The telescoping feature also eliminates the rope feature since the flag is hooked to the top section of the pole and then the telescoping feature raises it. Many have a rotating collar which allows the flag to swivel with wind direction and not get wrapped around the pole.

Since flying flags is a protected activity in many states (and even if it isn't, people that want to do it generally won't take "no" for an answer), the HOA should try to find a way to accommodate the flag wavers. The telescoping flagpole addresses a number of the concerns. Why not consider including it as part of the policy?

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