Garden grows woes for Tinley Park condo resident
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2012 5:06PM
Bill Martino holds photos of the plants he took it upon himself to beautify a barren planter at the Misty Pines subdivision in Tinley Park, Illinois, Wednesday, September 12, 2012. He did not go through proper channels and the homeowners association told him to tear it all out. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:38PM
Bill Martino knows that, technically, he did break the rules.
He knows he was supposed to get pre-approval from the Misty Pines Condo Association board before he spent $400 on 18 plants to beautify a once-barren planter area beside a parking lot.
He knows he was supposed to submit a plan, complete with a list of plants, to the condo association board for its review.
But he also knows that he was tired of looking at patch of dirt, and wanted to spruce things up.
So in mid-July, he went to local stores to stock up on plants, mulch and dirt.
He spent a couple days toiling in stifling heat, planting the perennials, the holly bushes, the rhododendrons, and the flowers.
“I shopped everywhere to get good prices. It turned out real pretty,” he said.
Martino, 74, didn’t mind getting his hands dirty.
After all, Martino has spent 55 years working as a horticulturist and florist. Designing gardens paid the bills.
But all his hard work was for naught.
And all that remains of his beautification efforts are a few photographs.
The condo board ruled that Martino broke an association rule by not getting the changes to the “common area” pre-approved, and ordered him to tear out all the plants.
On July 12, Martino had asked the board to reimburse the $400 spent on the project. He had split the cost with next-door neighbor Joan Salbego.
“I told the board they could pay me next year. I did all the labor. I was only charging them what I paid for,” he said.
A week later, Sandra Dittman, property manager for S.P. Management, the subdivision’s management company, sent Martino a letter saying he violated association policy by not seeking pre-approval from the board.
“At no time are owners allowed to make any changes to common areas without prior approval from the board of directors,” the letter said.
Because he failed to do that, he was not eligible for reimbursement, Dittman wrote.
Dittman was not at the S.P. Management office in Tinley Park when a reporter visited Wednesday. She failed to return two phone calls.
In a follow-up letter to Martino, Dittman said the board on July 26 decided he had to remove the plants by Aug. 31 — or pay a landscaping company to do the work.
On Aug. 30, Martino begrudgingly removed the plants.
Glancing at the again barren patch of land — near Misty Pines Court and Ridgeland Avenue — Salbego, the sister of Tinley Park village clerk Pat Rea, was clearly not pleased.
“The people they have out here working (on the landscaping) don’t know what they’re doing. Bill did this on his own. It’s disgusting that they made him tear it out,” Salbego said.
Neighbor Lise Bolden agreed, saying “exceptions need to be made to any rule.”
Forcing Martino to remove the plants “was downright mean,” Bolden said.
Bolden and Salbego said visitors to the subdivision had spoken in glowing terms of Martino’s handiwork.
Martino said he went ahead with the plantings after a condo board member told him the association had no money to do it.
“I put this in in mid-July. I was caring for it for five, six weeks. We had blooming perennials, rhododendrons, sedum, and holly bushes. There was a total of 18 plants,” Martino said.
Now they’re all gone. So is his respect for the condo board, especially after they “ignored” a petition signed by 57 residents in favor of Martino’s beautification effort.
Martino called the board members “dictators” who “don’t want to work with the people.”
“It’s sad. It’s very sad,” Martino said.