• Controversy brewing over statue of the Virgin Mary in The Villages


    SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - A bit of a controversy is brewing in The Villages over the Virgin Mary.
    A homeowner there said he has been told his statue is a violation of the Homeowners' Association rules, so he's taken it out of his front yard.
    Retired priest David Melancon and his partner, Charles Mione, have lived in their Villages home for seven years, but they said last week for the first time the statue became an issue.
    "We believe in standing up for our rights. I mean, if nobody says anything, I mean where does it end?" said Melancon.
    They said the 2-foot tall figure of the Virgin Mary represents their Catholic beliefs, but another resident of The Villages complained and sent a photo of the statue to the HOA.
    Melancon said the fines they faced from the HOA could have been costly.
    "It would have gotten very expensive very quickly," said Melancon.
    Before fines began to rack up Melancon and Mione decided to remove the Virgin Mary, but they said they won't give up the fight
    Melancon said the man who complained doesn't live anywhere near him.
    "If I have the right person, he lives 3 miles away from here," said Melancon.
    Melancon and Mione removed the statue last week but said they might have found a loophole to allow the statue to be displayed again -- a water fountain.
    They said HOA rules allow for statues as long as they are part of a water feature.
    "If push comes to shove I'll make Mary into a water feature," said Melancon.
    Channel 9's Steve Barrett tried to contact The Villages HOA about the statue, but did not get a response.

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    Controversy brewing over statue of the Virgin Mary in The Villages