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.
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….