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Orphaned teen barred from living with grandparents by Arizona senior housing association

The 15-year-old's parents died last year, two weeks apart, and his grandparents were told by their housing association he's too young to stay with them.

An orphaned teenager in Arizona whose mother and father died last year is being barred from living with his grandparents by their senior housing association because he's too young.

Melodie Passmore told NBC News Wednesday that her 15-year-old grandson, Collin Clabaugh, has been living with her since shortly before his parents died two weeks apart last year.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Passmore said that she wanted The Gardens at Willow Creek in Prescott, where she moved four years ago, to allow him to live with her "under special circumstances for a couple more years."

But an attorney representing the homeowner association, Jason Miller, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Collin does not meet the minimum age requirement of 19.

Image: Melodie Passmore, Collin Clabaugh
Melodie Passmore with her grandson, Collin Clabaugh.Courtesy Melodie Passmore

"The board appreciates the difficulty of these circumstances but must balance the interests of all parties involved, the Passmores, and all other owners who purchased property in an age-restricted community expecting the age restrictions to be followed," the statement said.

Miller said the community is governed by a volunteer board of directors, comprised of elected property owners in the association.

Passmore said that she bought the home in the 55 and older community with her husband, Randy, because they liked and could afford it, not to move away from young people.

She said that Collin has lived with her since he was 14 and that she informed the home owner's association. He came to stay with her and her husband in Christmas 2018 because his mother was in the hospital and his father was working and caring for her in Riverside County, California, where they lived.

"He was with us knowing that at anytime, hopefully, his mother would get well," Passmore said.

But in February 2019, she said she received a phone call informing her Collin’s mother, Bonnie, had died from organ failure due to medications.

Two weeks later, Passmore said, her son Clay died by suicide. "He couldn't stand being without his wife," she said.

While mourning the loss of her son and daughter-in-law, Passmore said she was contacted by the association in May and questioned why she had not told them Collin was still living with her.

"I said, 'I've been a little busy taking care of two funerals, a home in California and my grandson,'" Passmore said. "And I said, 'I'm sorry, you're the last thing on my hit parade.'"

The association also told her that another resident had complained about Collin living in the community, she said. She informed them that there wasn't anyone else that was capable of taking care of her grandson, who she said has struggled with depression since he was 10 or 11.

Passmore said she wrote a letter to the association, explaining the situation but received no response. In May 2019, she said she received a letter from an attorney for the association informing her that Collin needed to move out of her home. Passmore and her husband then hired an attorney, Kristyne Schaaf-Olson, who wrote a letter on their behalf requesting Collin be exempt from the age requirement for residents of the community.

On Jan. 5, Passmore said her attorney received a letter dated Dec. 5, 2019, from the association's board of directors, informing her that the Passmores are expected to be in compliance with the association's age restrictions by June 30, 2020. "In other words," she said, "they expected we will have made alternative living arrangements for Collin."

Passmore said in her Facebook post that she did not desire to smuggle her grandson into the community "to drive the old folks batty" but rather to keep the family together.

"How many of you can just sell your house and buy a new one and not feel horrible because you have sunk every dime you had into fixing it up," she wrote. "This isn't a little whiney kid running up and down the street screaming and causing trouble."

Passmore said Wednesday that she knew the basic rules at the living community and that her grandson is a helpful young man.

"So next time you want to rag on me remember to ask yourself if you have compassion and want to see him happy and living with people who love him or would you rather he be in foster care because some lawyers are trying to push his grandparents around and intimidate us," Passmore said in her Facebook post.

The attorney representing the housing association in a statement Wednesday night said it is willing to work with the family but did not specify if Collin would be able to stay. "The Gardens at Willow Creek legal counsel and legal counsel for the Passmores have been in contact, and the board is working with the Passmores to resolve this matter," Miller said.

Passmore said she will not be intimidated by the association.

"I know rules are made to be looked at and adjusted," Passmore said Wednesday. "I will fight this tooth and nail."