Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife, Mary, are headed to court for, of all things, a dispute between neighbors involving a homeowners association, the paving of gravel roads and landscaping.
The nation’s longest-tenured college football coach and his wife are scheduled to begin trial on Feb. 6 to resolve a dispute between them and three neighboring families, the Associated Press reports.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take it slow.
Disagreement centers around landscaping, road repair
The Ferentzes and three sets of neighbors signed an agreement in 2001 that “called for a homeowners association” after arguments between neighbors about whether to pave a gravel road.
Mary Ferentz objected, saying she wanted the road kept gravel and the neighborhood to remain rural for privacy reasons.
“What I remember distinctly is she looked at me and said, ‘No, you don’t understand who I am.’ … I was a little bit taken back,” John Buatti testified. “For me it was the safety of my children, not who she was or why that would matter.”
In 2015, the neighbors agreed the road needed repairs. They founded the Saddle Club Road Homeowners’ Association, saying it was called for in the 2001 agreement. The association assessed each neighbor for a $37,000 repair project and established a $5,000 annual maintenance fund, partly to trim “obstructive branches” from the Ferentzes’ trees.
The Ferentzes told their neighbors in a letter they weren’t required to join because the 2001 agreement required a unanimous vote to form the association. They noted they opposed the 2003 road resurfacing, which brought more “stalkers and gawkers” to the neighborhood. The couple added that their road maintenance costs have doubled but they’d be willing to pay under a less formal agreement.
The association sued, alleging the couple violated its bylaws, breached the 2001 agreement and trespassed. The Ferentzes countersued, seeking an order declaring they aren’t association members.
AP report details long-running disagreement between neighbors that couldn’t be resolved out of court
A judge’s ruling in September 2017 declared that the Ferentzes were not members of the homeowners association formed in 2015 to split the cost of road maintenance. The AP report indicates that this is a matter of principle for the Iowa coach, who made more than $5 million in 2017 and is under contract with the school until 2026.
One neighbor has testified that they “bent over backward” to reach agreement with the Ferentzes but were rebuffed repeatedly. The Ferentzes’ attorney has argued that the case is about property rights, saying owners cannot be subjected to restrictions to which they haven’t agreed.
The September ruling freed Iowa’s coach from having to pay $9,400 for road repairs. After the Iowa Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the neighbors, the two parties will settle the remaining claims at trial.