PHOENIX — If you love the look of a green lawn but hate the waste and cost of water, state lawmakers are taking steps to provide some relief.
Unopposed, the Senate on Monday gave preliminary approval to a measure that would ban homeowners associations from telling residents they can’t remove their natural lawn and replace it with artificial turf. The measure, which was approved in almost similar language by the House, now requires a roll-call vote.
Monday’s action stems from complaints from some people who have found themselves fined for deciding to opt for what they see as a greener alternative.
Dennis Legere, founder of the Arizona Homeowners Coalition, told lawmakers it was not carte blanche for residents to put whatever they wanted, no matter what it looked like.
He pointed out that House Bill 2131 would allow HOAs to adopt “reasonable rules regarding the installation and appearance of artificial turf.” And it allows the association to regulate the amount of land that can be covered with artificial turf.
But the legislation, sponsored by R-Fountain Hills Rep. John Kavanagh, makes it clear that the rules cannot be so strict that they ban all types of artificial turf. And the limit of the percentage that can have artificial grass cannot be less than the amount of property covered with natural grass.
Lobbyist Kathy Senseman, who is representing a landlord in the midst of a fight with her association in Paradise Valley, argued there was no reason to ban.
“We would like natural grass and artificial grass to be treated the same,” she said. And Senseman said it was more than just personal preference.
“Homeowners who have done this have saved between 60% and 70% of their water usage since doing this,” she said. “We believe in property rights. We believe in this water conservation.
And Senseman said the idea isn’t particularly radical.
“Most new homes install artificial turf to start with,” Senseman continued. “We just don’t think HOAs that allow natural grass should also be able to say, ‘You can have natural grass, you just can’t have artificial grass. “”
Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, said it made sense to her.
“We live in a desert and we have to conserve water,” she said. “We can’t have organizations banning turf or artificial grass.”
Besides allowing HOA to set reasonable aesthetic standards, the measure has another key exception.
It clarifies that associations can prohibit the installation of artificial turf if they have “unique vegetation and geological features that require preservation by the association”.
Senseman said there are reasons for this verbiage.
“In Tucson, for example, they’ll have a lot of natural landscaping,” she explained, which is part of the overall look of the community. The idea, Senseman said, is not to add artificial grass.
But she said there were other examples.
Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, said there are communities built around what already exists and don’t want the character to change.
Consider, he said, the Boulders community that straddles Scottsdale and Carefree. It is named after the huge granite boulders located throughout the property.
Adding artificial turf, he said, would not be appropriate.
Then there’s Hoffman’s own residence in a development built amid approximately 2,000 pecan trees. The rules there, he said, require 90% of the land to be unpaved.
Specifically, Hoffman said, natural grass keeps the area cooler, which he says is better for pecans.
This isn’t the first time state lawmakers have passed restrictions on the rules that HOAs can impose on those who live there.
For example, lawmakers struck down regulations that prohibit residents from posting signs supporting or opposing candidates and issues. And some rules prohibiting off-street parking have also come under legislative action.
This year alone, the House has already passed a proposal that allows HOA residents to fly flags in honor of “first responders.” This measure, House Bill 2010, awaits action by the Senate.
There is a precedent for this action.
The original law only permitted the display of state and federal flags.
This was spent to include the flags of any branch of the service. It is also permitted to display the POW/MIA flag and the Gadsden flag, this yellow flag with the design of a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t tread on me”.