FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers have refused to involve themselves in a dispute between the family of a Lexington toddler with cerebral palsy and the homeowners association that rejected a playhouse built for the child's physical therapy.
A bill by Democratic Rep. Richard Henderson of Jeffersonville would have let 3-year-old Cooper Veloudis keep the playhouse recommended by his physical therapist, but it didn't get the nine votes needed to advance out of a House local government committee Wednesday.
Tiffiney Veloudis, the child's mother, said her family unintentionally ran afoul of their homeowners association's rules by building the playhouse in the yard. But she said it has been good for her son's therapy.
"When this playhouse came, it was the difference between night and day," Veloudis told members of the committee during the hearing.
Dr. Deborah Slaton, a former special education teacher and resident of the Andover Forest neighborhood where the Veloudis family lives, said it's the equipment in the playhouse, not the building itself, that is therapeutic.
Slaton said there are creative alternatives that would not violate the association's covenants. She said disability laws already provide for "reasonable accommodation."
"It's premature to assume that what we need now is another law," Slaton said.
Henderson said the bill would bring "uniformity" to regulations for 1,700 homeowners associations in Kentucky with regard to similar cases involving children with disabilities.
The bill would have given parents of disabled children 12 and under the right to build playhouses or other detached structures for therapy on doctor's orders, regardless of association rules. But those would have to conform to the "architectural aesthetics" of the neighborhood, couldn't be bigger than 100 square feet and would have to be removed once a child reached age 13.
Rep. Ron Crimm, a Louisville Republican, said he was among lawmakers who didn't want the legislature involved in such issues.
"I don't think we should be dealing with this type of thing," he said, calling it a local matter.
Rep. Jim Wayne, a Louisville Democrat, said he also didn't consider the legislature the proper venue, though he called the effort "noble."
Six members voted for the bill, two against, and six abstained.
After the measure failed, Democratic Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville, the committee chairman, said he didn't know whether the bill was dead, but it was on hold for the time being.
"It looked to me like the will of the committee is that it needs to go back to the local level, to local government, and they need to work on it," he said.
The legislation is House Bill 160.