Houston-Area Homeowner's Association Goes to War with Man Over His WWII Sherman Tank

"If you're offended, just lighten up. My goodness, it isn't hurting anyone," the owner said.

Twitter | @johnthelawyer

Thanks to its starring role in World War II, the M4 Sherman tank is one of America's most iconic and battle-tested machines. This particular example landed at Normandy just after D-Day, helped liberate Paris, and took the fight to the Nazis in Berlin. 70 years later, it finds itself facing a much different—though arguably no less vicious—kind of enemy: the homeowner's association that runs the ritzy neighborhood where its owner resides.

KHOU News brings us the story of wealthy Houston attorney Tony Buzbee and his battle with the River Oaks Property Group over his historic tank. Buzbee purchased the M4 Sherman last year for $600,000 at a sale over in Europe, but it's only recently taken up residence street-parked in a legal space on River Oaks Boulevard outside his multi-million-dollar home.

Neighborhood residents seem to get a kick out of the tank, as KHOU has footage of kids clambering all over it while drivers and pedestrians pause to admire the out-of-place piece of American history. Unfortunately, the homeowner's association doesn't agree: The group sent Buzbee a sternly-worded letter raising traffic concerns, calling it a "safety" issue, and vaguely alluding to the "serious concerns" of anonymous neighbors.

"If you're offended, just lighten up. My goodness, it isn't hurting anyone," Buzbee told KHOU. The images show the Sherman is parked on a plywood base, so that includes the pavement.

Getty Images

Germany, March 1945

To play devil's advocate, Buzbee presumably has enough space on his very expensive property to store the tank off the street; the situation rather feels like a case of someone doing something simply because they believe they should be able to, no matter how awesome we think a museum-quality World War II tank is. And HOA or not, there's generally a law in most areas about parking unregistered or "recreational" vehicles on the side of the road. 

On the other hand, if you're going to find a less-sympathetic actor than a millionaire attorney with a first-world problem, a homeowner's association is a great starting point. While it's certainly unique, the tank is hardly an eyesore, thanks to a flawless restoration. KHOU couldn't find any of the neighbors with "serious concerns," and had the HOA approached Buzbee person-to-person, they would have learned his plan is to ship it to his East Texas ranch in the next couple weeks.

Of course, as he points out, there's not much they can do if he doesn't. The M4 Sherman weighs around 70,000 pounds.

"The problem is there is no action they can take," Buzbee said. "They can ticket it or they can try to tow it, but the truth is unless I decide to move it, it's not going anywhere."