I have written several articles over the past year about this beautifully landscaped home in Duval County, but had my “fingers tied” for several months while negotiations and mediation was going on. I’m sorry to have to report that after months of quiet the couple in Jacksonville, FL has been served a lawsuit for their Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL). Residing in the Marsh Sound community, this couple submitted their intentions to convert their yard to FFL landscaping in January, 2011, and, after not receiving a response within 30 days, as stated in the covenants and restrictions, they began installing new drought-tolerant plants after removing the dead St. Augustine grass.
I personally attended several HOA meetings on the couple’s behalf only to find the Board members quite unreceptive to Florida Statute 373.185, our impending water shortages, FFL principles and the printed materials I brought. They insisted the only way the couple could complete their FFL yard was to receive the FFL Gold rating, which they did, becoming the first FFL Gold certified yard in Duval County. Instead of congratulating the couple, the HOA Board accused the couple of submitting a false application and not actually having anyone from the UF Extension Service inspect the property! In subsequent meetings the Board stood fast on their belief that they could “pick and choose” the parts of the Florida Statutes pertaining to drought-tolerant landscaping that suited them. Did I mention their house is on the main road of the community and there is already a previously FFL certified yard (but not Gold) in one of the cul de sacs?
The HOA’s attorney became involved followed by an attorney representing the couple, which seemed to work until the date of mediation. Several months ago at mediation (almost 1 year later), the parties (the HOA’s attorney representing the Board of Directors), the couple and their attorney came to an agreement. However, after reaching the agreement the HOA’s attorney called the HOA Board President who refused to accept the agreement that had been reached. The HOA’s attorney had to return to the group and cancel the agreement even though he had been given the authority to represent the Board.
Several more months passed with no communication between attorneys and then suddenly, the couple was served papers for a lawsuit against them. Curiously the lawsuit only addresses the area between the sidewalk and the street which the HOA says is common area and belongs to the community AND must be planted with St. Augustine grass. I find it unbelievable that they are now going to enforce something like this for 2 reasons:1. Landscaping and irrigating the small strip of land between the sidewalk and the street with no longer meet the Gold standard of FFL principles. 2. A house in the next block (on a corner lot) removed their grass years ago (before this couple had even thought about a FFL yard) and replaced it with white marble chips which spill over the area onto the street and sidewalk.
The next time I am in their area I plan to take pictures of the marble chip yard so you can see how unattractive and dangerous it is. I knew about the chips as I have walked my dog in the neighborhood and almost slipped on one of the rocks. You will probably start seeing articles on the TV stations and newspapers as this lawsuit continues. The couple has already been contacted by Action 12 News to do a story. I wonder if contacting State Representatives would do any good. This may very well be the first lawsuit to test the Florida Statutes regarding homeowners’ rights to install drought tolerant landscaping.