by Betsy Barbieux
It was a rare sight to behold; the community association
industry’s version of “shock and awe”! There they were gathered together at a
table, five of them each with a different perspective and area of expertise,
opinionated, determined, forthright, and all in agreement! An observer just had
to pause for a moment to let it all sink in. Five people who agreed with each
other! Some have said it could happen, but rarely do you get to see it with
your own eyes!
To set the stage, a board of directors of an upscale
homeowners association was being challenged by an owner who wanted to remove
all the turf in his front and back yards and install a Florida-friendly
landscape of rocks and cactus. The owner insisted the drought-resistant
Xeriscape was Florida-friendly and the board of directors and Architectural
Review Committee had to approve his request because it was the law.
The board of directors decided to take the initiative to
find out the truth and understand the law regarding Florida-friendly
landscaping. The owner was not going to dictate to the board (and the whole
community) what Florida-friendly landscaping meant to him. The board decided to
set those guidelines based upon information, fact, and law.
By using their problem solving strategy (see the article
“How to Resolve Problems, Part 2,” in the March 2010 issue of The Journal), they proceeded to resolve
Define the Issue
An owner has made a request to remove all the turf in his
front and back yards and install a landscape of rocks and cactus. The owner
insisted the rocks and cactus were Florida-friendly and his request could not
Step 1. Identify by
name the problem or issue.
As the thought process unfolded, there were several issues,
which required resolution at different levels.
First, the board of directors needed to know the definition
of Florida-friendly landscaping and what, if any, was the requirement for
Second, assuming there were requirements or restrictions for
community associations, they needed to create specific architectural
guidelines, incorporate them into the association’s documents, and implement
procedures for owners and the Architectural Review Committee.
Step 2. Determine
who has the authority and/or obligation to resolve the issue.
A review of the governing documents yielded the following
information: The Declaration of XYZ Homeowners Association states:
1.4 “Common Area” or “Common Open
Area” shall mean and refer to the Lands, LESS the lots.
1.6 The term “Lands” shall mean
and refer to that certain real property within XYZ Homeowners Association
described on the attached Exhibit.
1.7 The term “Lot” shall mean and
refer to those subdivided portions of the Lands, which are improved or to be
improved with Villas and which are subject to fee simple ownership.
5.1 The association has been
established to provide for the effective and efficient administration and
ownership of the common open area within XYZ Homeowners Association, and to
assist in maintaining the safety and cleanliness of the lands. The association
shall manage the common area, shall assist in the enforcement of the provisions
of this Declaration, and shall undertake and perform all acts necessary and
incident to such duties, all in accordance with the provisions of this
Declaration and the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Association.
The Bylaws of XYZ Homeowners Association state:
Section 1. The business of this corporation shall be managed by the
board of directors.
Section 2. The board shall be vested with all the powers and duties
necessary for administration of the corporation and may do all such acts as are
not by law or by these Bylaws directed to be done by the members. The board of
directors shall fulfill and perform any function designated for the board in
the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions.
Section 3. In addition to other duties imposed by these Bylaws, the
board of directors shall be responsible for: care, maintenance, upkeep, and
surveillance of the property including the common areas and recreational
facilities, as provided in the Declaration, levy and collection of all
assessments from the members; establishment of the annual budget; and adoption
of necessary rules and regulations governing XYZ Homeowners’ Association.
So the conclusion was obvious—this was an issue the board
of directors could and should resolve.
Step 3. Create a
plan to resolve the issue.
This step ended up taking the longest to accomplish, but
the results were well worth it. Significant here is that the board of directors
was willing to ask for help and spend some money on the front end of the issue.
The first part of the plan was to pull together a team of
experts who could assist the board and provide it with sound, legal, and
practical information. The team members were as follows:
A board member who would be the point of
contact/liaison from the team to the board of directors
The association’s attorney who specialized in
community association law
A horticulturist who is an Environmental
A Certified Commercial and Residential
From the association’s attorney, the board learned that
Florida-friendly landscaping cannot be prohibited by a homeowners association.
They also learned the board could and should establish guidelines for those
owners who elected to install Florida-friendly landscapes. From a practical
standpoint, the correct landscaping could save the association hundreds and
thousands of dollars in water bills. Owners would also save on their individual
water bills and stay within the maximum water usage restrictions set by the
With the expertise of the horticulturalist, they
Learned about the concept of Xeriscape and that
it is not related to Florida-friendly landscapes. (Xeriscape was developed in
Colorado and is for dry climates; Florida is not a dry climate.)
Obtained samples of the soil throughout the
community and sent them for acid/alkaline and moisture analysis at the
University of Florida and the local County Extension Office.
Identified the Hardiness Zone and Watershed and
River Basin in which the community was located and its significance.
Used the searchable Waterwise Plant Database
website to create a list of over 200 Florida-friendly plants, grasses, and
trees that could grow with very little water in the different soils within the
With the assistance of the Irrigation Designer, the team
Conducted an Irrigation Audit and considered
moisture sensors and weather station devices for the lawns.
Learned the proper methods for watering turf and
shrubbery and trees.
Discovered that all plants are drought tolerant
if the right plant is planted in the right place.
Realized the two-day restriction on watering is
not a punishment. It is simply all a lawn should need—assuming the right plant
is planted in the right place.
Using suggestions from the horticulturalist and
irrigation designer and the Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM,
the team designed several lawn templates for owners to choose from for
Florida-friendly landscaping using turf and using no turf.
At this point in the process, the team looked again to
its attorney to create amendments to the governing documents incorporating the
new guidelines, convene the appropriate meetings, obtain the required number of
votes, and record the amendments.
The next step was for the community association manager
to create Architectural Review Committee procedures and forms for owners to use
in requesting modifications for Florida-friendly landscapes.
Step 4. Communicate
the plan to the members or residents impacted/involved.
Throughout the process, owners were kept informed of the
progress made by the team. Obviously, the owners were given copies of the
amendments to review before they voted on them, and once they were recorded,
the owners were notified of that fact. The manager made available on the
website the guidelines owners would need to follow and the forms to complete
when requesting modifications for Florida-friendly landscapes.
Step 5. Monitor
and evaluate the plan.
Because of his role and responsibilities, the community
association manager became the person who would continuously monitor and
evaluate the plan. Any further issues would be reported to the board,
Architectural Review Committee, or attorney and acted upon as necessary.
Though the new Florida-friendly landscape guidelines have
been challenged by several disagreeable owners, because of their thorough
planning and excellent teamwork, the board of directors has always prevailed.
The board takes the position anyone should be able to find plants and grass
they like out of a list of 200-plus. If an owner can’t and he wants to sue the
board, that owner is free to spend his money. For this association, the
coordinated effort to preserve the uniformity of the community was extremely
successful. Note: This board has never lost a challenge in court.
Betsy Barbieux, CAM,
Professional Development Coach, Florida CAM Schools, LLC, (352) 326-8365, Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com and www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.
Here are some of the resources used by the team and the
board of directors.
See how other communities
have had success with FFL:
Florida-Friendly Landscape Maintenance
What to look for in a landscape maintenance
A list of landscape maintenance professionals
certified in Best Management
Practices of the Green Industries:
Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Laws, Ordinances,
State Statute, adopted 2009—prohibits HOAs
and local governments from
prohibiting Florida-Friendly Landscaping™:
For the up-to-date version (September 2010)
of the Florida-Friendly
Landscaping™ Model Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for New and Existing
Community Associations, go to http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/CCRs_Sept-20-2010_final.pdf
Florida Friendly Guidance Models for
Ordinances, Covenants, and Restrictions
A list of considerations for Florida-Friendly
Landscaping™ guidelines for architectural review boards.
LandscapingTM Handbook—provides the basics of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™
with a summary of the nine principles; checklist for homeowner recognition of a
Florida-Friendly Landscape; and the FFL design guide and plant list:
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design, 1st ed. (2010) is intended as
a companion to The Florida Yards &
Neighborhoods Handbook (4th ed., 2009). This guide is intended for
homeowners who want to take the next step and design their own Florida-Friendly
Landscapes. Included in this book is information on landscape design
strategies, a landscape planning worksheet, and the FFL Plant List containing
many of the UF/IFAS-recommended Florida-Friendly plants for each region of the
converting to a Florida-Friendly Landscape? Get easy step-by-step directions that spread the effort over time and
budgets: See “Adopting a Florida-Friendly Landscape: Steps for Converting a
Typical Development Landscape to a Florida-Friendly Landscape.”
Incorporate the nine principles of
Florida-Friendly Landscaping with a new concept developed at UF/IFAS:
Community ButterflyScaping: How to move beyond butterfly gardening to
create a large-scale butterfly habitat.
University of Florida Community Guidelines
Chapter 373, Florida Statutes, NATURAL RESOURCES; CONSERVATION,
RECLAMATION, AND USE
Nine Principles of Florida Friendly Landscapes
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program – Community
Association Managers Kit
St. Johns River Water Management District
Waterwise Plant Database