Florida Friendly Yard Rejected by HOA!

Continuing the saga of the first Gold certified Florida Friendly yard in Duval County, the HOA’s attorney sent a letter to the homeowners notifying them of impending “Pre-suit Mediation”!

A new Florida Statute, FS 720.3075 encourages homeowners to install Florida Friendly yards with drought-tolerant plants and practices to reduce the amount of pollution, ie. fertilizers/pesticides, into our waters.  Spear-headed by the DEP and Water Management Districts, it also states HOAs may not penalize homeowners for following Florida Friendly Landscaping guidelines.

As FS 720.3075 was introduced in 2010 there have not been any court cases challenging this statute yet. This Duval County home in East Jacksonville may very well become the first.  Located in a community whose lakes drain into the Intracoastal Waterway, the outcome of this potential lawsuit may very well set the precedent for future homeowners desiring to become “stewards” of one of our most important natural resources.  One can only wonder why Florida Statutes are written if there are only “teeth” in certain statutes and not others.

Sunday AM community irrigation into storm-water drain which flows directly into the lake leading to the ICW

HOAs and HOA management companies do not know how to deal with this new statute and the HOA Board of Directors, typically comprised of older, retired individuals whose memories of yards are large expanses of green grass yards, are having difficulty thinking “outside the box” and a little “browner”.

It would be wise for all HOAs and HOA Management companies to invite someone from the County Extension Office or U of F’s Florida Friendly Landscape Dept. to make a presentation and  provide assistance to a HOA in re-writing covenants and restrictions dealing with community landscaping and FFL principles instead of unaware individuals attempting to re-write Florida Friendly guidelines to fit their preconceived notions of what a front yard should look like. HOAs need to keep in mind this statute was written to protect our children, pets and waterways from increasingly toxic chemicals!  This is about our resources, not who has more power!  A famous golf-course in Naples, FL converted to a more natural approach for their turf management which not only improved the health of turf and the surrounding lakes, but also decreased their operating expenses exponentially.  If champion golf courses are willing to listen and are changing their approaches to landscape management, why is it so hard for HOA Board of Directors?

The fall-out from the HOA and the HOA Management company’s unwillingness to adopt, inform and encourage residents about the new Florida Statute regarding options in landscapes has resulted in mis-understandings with neighbors, anonymous “hate” letters and a developing rift in the community.  Homeowners have been led to believe these “renegade” homeowners are destroying their community and devaluing their homes when, in reality, these homeowners are only being good stewards of their neighboring waterway and are probably encouraging more eco-minded homeowners to consider their community as a place to live!

Watch for continuing updates as the saga continues….

4 responses to “Florida Friendly Yard Rejected by HOA!

  1. Dominic Bruno

    We live in Land O Lakes Fl and were sued four years ago when we started installing a FFL. We emailed the Board and Managerment co three times asking what we had to do to conform to any rules the association had. We heard nothing. So, we put down 24 yards of mulch per the recommendation of the County Extension Service at a cost of Eight hundred dollars. Three days later they filed suit. They wanted all 24 yards of mulch removed and the area resodded. We finally went to court April 22 but have not received a decision yet. Bruno vs Sable Ridge HOA is the cite. The court was in Dade City. In discovery, I found a note between two board members talking about mulch and what was allowed, and the President of the HOA said “Don’t tell Bruno what kind of mulch is approved”…….We declared that we were going to put down a FFL and told them what thefirst step was meaning the mulch, and they waited till it was down to sue us when all they had to do was tell us not to do it and we would have waited. WE filled out the application, but heard nothing. Just another case of ignorant people violating the law….

    • Thanks for letting all of us know about your case Dominic. What I have found so unfortunate about HOAs is some of the Board members think they have rights to impose their ideas of what residential front yard should look like without any regards to homeowners’ rights or Florida Statutes. Apparently many of them also believe they can discuss HOA issues between themselves outside of a Board of Directors meeting! Your Board of Directors sounds like so many other Boards with one or two self-serving “volunteer” members.

      Why isn’t the type of approved mulch listed in your Architectural/Landscape guidelines? And even worse, why wouldn’t your Board want you to know which mulch you could use? A four-year law suit has not only been a drain on the community’s HOA fees and your savings it has also put your community in a negative light and possibly decreased property values as fewer people want to move into neighborhood where planting something in their front yard may result in a lawsuit. As a Real Estate Broker I know licensees are telling their customers about the pros and cons of a neighborhood and when someone learns of a 4-year lawsuit over landscaping why would they want to live there?

      Please keep us posted with as much information as possible about your challenge with your HOA. It will help more of us that are trying to conserve our most precious natural resource.

      One last thing Bruno. If you have a Facebook account please join the group “Homeowners for Florida Friendly Yards”. You will find more cases of homeowners with problems and a wonderful attorney who is sharing what she can in an on-going lawsuit in her area. Those members would also appreciate your story.

  2. I’m running into the same problem. I really wish our legislators wouldn’t do things half-baked. I quit watering about two years ago when the Southwest Florida Water Management District restricted our turf watering to once per week and only 10 minutes per zone. That wasn’t enough and what little grass I had left (an oak tree shaded out the rest) mostly died before the restricton went back to once per week without the 10 minute per zone restriction. I’ve since started incorporating ornamental peanut but that is being called a “weed” by the HOA. I really hope some cases are made to get the HOA and local governments to rethink they way they are doing things.

    • I am sorry your HOA is giving you so many problems. The County Extension Office in your area should be able to provide you some literature about perennial/ornamental peanut which is a ground cover, not a weed as your HOA seems to think. Your predicament along with several others I have learned about recently certainly does make one wonder why the Florida Statute for Florida Friendly yards was written! Folks want to do the right thing and save our precious water from contamination yet they only find road-blocks every way they turn! Please keep us posted with any progress or opposition that you encounter in the future. I hope to create a FB page or someplace where homeowners can add their experiences since we have so many individuals hiring attorneys which is a lot of money paid to educate attorneys in FF practices since only a handful seem to know anything about it.

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