Alabama child’s sidewalk art from heart won’t be erased by homeowners’ group

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A Riverchase mother is speaking out after her young daughter’s encouraging message left in chalk on the sidewalk was met with assertions that they were defacing the neighborhood and lowering property values.

During these uncertain times – when new rules are in and mom rules are gone for now – Megan Seaton is stunned that her 11-year-old daughter’s act of kindness was met with what she calls bullying by her homeowner’s association.

Kennedy last week spent the better part of an hour drawing “Love Your Neighbor” in front of the family’s home. “She was very proud of it,’’ her mother said. “Then we got the letter from the board.”

That board was the Riverchase Townhomes Owners Association, a subgroup of the larger Riverchase Residential Association. Seaton pays homeowners’ dues to both. “The Riverchase Residential Association has not been enforcing sidewalk chalk. They’ve been really good about fostering community during this time,’’ Seaton said.

The RTOA, however, sent Seaton a formal letter Monday informing her that the chalk art was in violation of the covenants, calling Kennedy’s project “unsightly.” “The RTOA Board through enforcement of the RTOA covenants seeks to maintain the overall appearance of our neighborhood in order to protect all of our property values,’’ the letter stated. “We would very much appreciate it if you would clean up the sidewalk and refrain from using chalk or any other material to mar the sidewalks.”

Seaton, who is an attorney, said she learned the board actually met as a group to discuss Kennedy’s “infraction” and move forward with the demand to have it removed. She called the president to discuss it with him but said he told her, “I can’t allow you to deface the property.”

“They’re really digging their heels in,’’ Seaton said. “It’s disappointing.”

Like many kids, Seaton said, Kennedy is trying to adjust to the new normal which for her includes having her mother working from home and Kennedy trying to figure out how to navigate doing schoolwork on her own.

“Kennedy wanted to write some encouraging messages for the neighbors because everyone has been struggling,’’ Seaton said. “She wanted to show kindness and uplift people. It comes from her heart.”

“The biggest thing for her is now she feels like she’s done something wrong and that’s why it bothers me more than anything else because I don’t want her to think she did something wrong,’’ Seaton said. “That’s not the message we should communicate to anyone right now.”

“She’s even been leaving notes for people in the neighborhood,’’ she said. “She’s really gone out of her way to make people feel cared for right now and I want her to be proud of that.”

Seaton posted the letter to Facebook, and the reaction was immediate. It’s been shared more than 1,000 times. That, she said, has been a double-edged sword. Hundreds of strangers have encouraged and supported Kennedy. “It shows there’s good people and goodness in the world,’’ Seaton said.

Some neighbors, however, had asked Seaton to drop the issue fearing it would make their neighborhood look bad. “There’s been a lot of pressure for me to delete the post, but I want my daughter to know it’s important to be kind and uplifting.”

Shortly after this article published, Seaton received an apology call from the president of the association.

“I love living in Riverchase and it’s important I say that,’’ Seaton said. “I’ve just told her (Kennedy) that I’m proud of her and she needs to keep being kind and encouraging to others rather than be intimidated by something like this. You can’t please everyone.”