By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Central Florida is in the midst of a historic drought, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel. Conditions are so dry that portions of the St. Johns River have dried up, and wildfires have become a common occurrence.
Most of the state’s water is supplied by underground aquifers that must be replenished by rainfall, hopefully during Florida’s rainy season that generally begins in June. But until rainfall amounts approach normal levels, water restrictions are in place.
Homeowners are restricted to irrigating their lawns and landscapes twice per week, and only during cooler morning and evening hours. Even with irrigation, conditions have been so dry that some lawns have turned brown, dying off completely.
(Some readers might point out that a crispy, brown lawn is a potential fire hazard. However, twice weekly irrigation is still permitted in order to prevent brush and grass fires.)
The appearance of scraggly lawns is admittedly unsightly, but frustrated homeowners feel powerless to do much about it. Nevertheless, Ekana HOA in Seminole County has begun sending out compliance letters, reportedly demanding that homeowners re-sod their lawns within the next three weeks. The County will allow daily watering of new sod for the first month, despite water restrictions, but owners could easily double their water bills just trying to keep new sod alive while the drought continues.
And, let’s face it, critics would say that forcing owners to waste precious water resources on a thirsty lawn under these weather conditions is just plain irresponsible.
Some Ekana West homeowners think the board’s demands are unreasonable. They want the HOA to give them more time to repair their lawns, perhaps waiting until the rainy season is well underway. Then Mother Nature can lend a hand in establishing a new lawn.
Seminole County residents resist homeowners’ association demands to re-sod yards during drought
by: Angela Jacobs Updated: May 11, 2017 – 5:52 PM
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A group of Seminole County residents are crying foul after their homeowners’ association has demanded they re-sod their browning yards during the worst drought Central Florida has seen in 100 years.
The homeowners told Channel 9 that they want their yards to look nice and they want to fix the problem, but that doing so in the middle of a drought seems like a waste of money and time.
Mark Ingvolstad said his yard has not looked worse in the 25 years he’s lived in his Ekana West home.
“Right here will have to be replaced or plugged,” he said, pointing to parts of the yard. “I know this needs attention.”
Current water restrictions are a big part of the problem, as Ingvolstad said he can only water his yard twice a week.
Anyone who has lived in Central Florida can tell you that it is very challenging to maintain a lush, green lawn. The most commonly planted grass, St. Augustine grass, is truly a water hog. And when under the slightest amount of stress, St. Augustine grass is susceptible to grubs and cinch bugs that literally suck the life out of the lawn, leaving behind nothing but a sandy dust bowl. That makes it necessary to continuously treat St. Augustine grass with fertilzers and pesiticides to keep it looking presentable.
Some Floridians have opted to substitute Bahia grass, a hardy, drought tolerant cultivar that can withstand harsh growing conditions. But many an HOA board and architectural standards committee has rejected Bahia grass as an inferior, unattractive option.
Several years ago, the state enacted Florida Friendly landscape legislation, which was intended to enable property owners in restricted HOAs to replace large expanses of thirsty lawns with a variety of native shrubs, ornamental grasses, and flowering plants. But, as is usual with laws intended to help homeowners living in HOA-controlled communities, the language in the statute is vague, subject to interpretation, and readily ignored or violated by HOAs.
The end result is that, even though some HOA boards are reasonable and responsible environmental stewards, millions of Floridians continue to fight against fickle weather patterns, attempting to maintain the mythically perfect green lawn, year-round, or face the wrath of their HOA board.
The consequences of non compliance can be steep, including fines. Other associations have been known to enter private property to repair lawns, then send the bill to the homeowner. If charges levied by the HOA are left unpaid, the association has the legal authority to file a lien on the offending home, with the threat of foreclosure by the association.
That definitely puts Ekana West homeowners at a disadvantage, as they attempt to resist what they see as an unreasonable demand by their HOA.