The idea behind a home owners' association is really good. For a lot less than it would normally cost an entire neighborhood can get things like lawn care and snow removal and other benefits. But the rules that most HOA's add-on to that sensible base arrangement are nothing short of tyrannical.
I can not begin to comprehend people who defend such antics. Yea, the couple were maybe jerks in how they handled things, but $900 for a sign 4" too big? That would piss me off too, and so I don't see their response as particularly untoward, but rather a clever protest (definitely passive aggressive...at least until the lawsuits).
When I went looking for houses I very deliberately avoided HOA neighborhoods. I don't want someone telling me acceptable grass height or whether I can make certain changes to the house/property (I already don't like the township rules for those things). It seems to me the couple in that article would have been better served by doing likewise.