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Lake Monticello plans a recall election after a member of the HOA board posted nasty remarks about Democrats and people from the LGBTQ community

Lake Monticello HOA board votes to censure Don Polonis (right) for hostile remarks he posted online
Kelsey Cowger
Lake Monticello HOA board votes to censure Don Polonis (right) for hostile remarks he posted online

Lake Monticello – population 10,500 -- was known as a quiet, conservative community southeast of Charlottesville, but as real estate prices rose in the city, the lake drew a more diverse crowd.

“For some people it’s a vacation home – a second residence where they have their boat," says resident Kelsey Cowger. "Then there are a lot of people like us who were like, ‘Oh, you can buy a house for $200,000. That is where we’re going.”

She says the place has gone from red to purple, and many were shocked when a member of the homeowners’ association board started making nasty remarks online about Democrats and people observing pride month. HOA board member Gary Selleck read five posts, including the text that accompanied a picture of the rainbow flag.

“Satan f-ed," wrote board member Don Polonis. "The official rainbow, the Lord’s creation, has seven colors, while the official LGBT flag only uses six.”

He defends his posts, pointing to a constitutional protection for religious beliefs.

“I am a Christian and I hold traditional Christian views, such as a belief in God, a belief in Satan and a belief that homosexuality is immoral. People disagree with these views, and I disagree with them. I seek to do them no harm, though my beliefs may offend others," he explains. "Disagreements are not violence. Disagreements are not hate. Freedom of religion is the right to believe and speak our beliefs.”

But Kelsey Cowger didn’t buy it. She sent a letter of protest to the board, and Polonis posted that too.

“He included my name, my husband’s name, my e-mail address and our home address, and also gave his own commentary where he thought our family was Satanic," she recalls. "The sight where he posted our stuff has organizers from Unite the Right on it and big gun enthusiasts and militia people and stuff, so we were nervous about it at first. We have a 2-year-old. We like to let him ride his bike in front of the house. We were gone for a couple of days and were like, ‘Is our house going to get vandalized?’ But I will say there has been a very heartening response from the community and from community safety and security. They reached out to tell us they were monitoring and had extra patrols going by and had reached out to the sheriff.”

The HOA board voted to censure Polonis but did not have the legal authority to remove him. They asked for his resignation. He refused. So Cowger has organized a campaign to boot him off the board, complete with lawn signs, postcards, a flyer and phone bank.

“You need 50% plus one of the available voting members. Now the problem is in an HOA that’s not just 50% of the people who vote. That is 50% of the people who own property.”

In previous Lake Monticello homeowners’ elections, fewer than 19-hundred people have voted, and it will take 2,301 to remove Polonis from the board. Still, Cowger is heartened by the community’s response so far.

“We have a ton of people who’ve approached us and said, ‘I don’t get involved in politics. I’m mostly just here to golf and be retired, and I don’t ever follow these things, but I was so upset about the violation of privacy, or I was so upset about the reputation of the community, or I was so upset about whether I’ll be able to rent my rental house with these attitudes floating around. And then also people who are like, ‘I’m gay. I raised my family here, and I just kept my head down, but now I feel like I can finally talk about it.’”

Win or lose, she believes this campaign will be worthwhile.

“We are going to be running some people for the HOA board, we’re going to pay attention to the school board races. We’re going to use this for some good things.”

And, she adds, her group has raised nearly $5,000 to pay campaign expenses.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief