Archive for May, 2013

HOAs and the Environment

May 23, 2013

HOAs and the Environment

mobius recycle symbolColorado’s Senate just passed a “xeriscape bill” that effectively takes the power to covenant and contract out of the hands of homeowners and their associations.  the bill declares any covenant condition or restriction that prohibits xeriscaping and requires turf to be against public policy.   This seems unfortunate.   I have had a xeriscaped lawn, and enjoyed the advantages of it, but I have to think folks have the right to choose to live in a neighborhood that requires turf.

The bill also prevents enforcement of lawn maintenance obligations from being enforced during time of water use restrictions.  The bill says that owners “shall water his or her landscaping appropriately” during such times, but does not define what that means.  So an extreme owner may very well decide that during a time of drought, it is appropriate to kill all of her lawn.  I suspect some courts in Colorado might agree.

This issue is one that keeps coming up and will keep coming up. Here in Idaho, water scarcity may drive this same grass issue to the forefront long before policies on solar panels or laundry lines are resolved.  Lawyer Kelsey Jae Nunez wrote about it in our Idaho State Bar journal in March, from an environmental lawyer’s point of view.  There is little consensus on which environmentally-sensitive lifestyle choices are so necessary that they should be able to trump existing restrictions. 

While I have written a few times about the need for more HOA law in Idaho, it seems to me that this is different.  Once a legislature crosses the line from just providing general rules of governance to amending covenants by public policy-based fiat, it is a slippery, un-sodded slope to micro-management of each board by the Statehouse.