HOA, homeowner at odds over 'Florida-friendly' grass

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A west Orange County community homeowner's attempt to improve some landscaping has led to a three-year battle with the neighborhood's homeowners association.

The Summerport HOA rules allow for certain types of grass to be planted as lawns. The bahia one family put in is not on the list.
 
But the homeowners believe state law allows them to have bahia and other water-friendly landscaping.
 
Karina Veaudrey of the Florida Native Plant Society said bahia grass is a water-friendly grass, requiring much less water that St. Augustine, which is the type seen on most Summerport lawns.
 
But the HOA rules say lawns should be either St. Augustine grass or zoysia grass. The HOA is suing the homeowner.
 
"They want all the houses to look exactly the same. I guess they like that movie 'Pleasantville' where everything looks the same," said Barbara Stage, the attorney representing the homeowner.
 
Stage said bahia is considered "Florida-friendly" and contends it is allowed under Florida law. She pointed out a Florida statute that reads, in part, "Homeowners' association documents, including declarations of covenants, articles of incorporation, or bylaws, may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping."
 
An attorney from the HOA told Channel 9's Jeff Deal he doesn't dispute the statute, but he said St. Augustine and zoysia are both considered Florida-friendly grasses.
 
The homeowner's attorney said she believes the statute doesn't allow HOAs to limit the choice of Florida-friendly grasses.
 
"The whole concept is to preserve water, reduce pesticides and herbicides," Stage said.