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Low Impact Development, Drought Resistant Part 3 of a 3-Part Series Dedicated to Homeowners Associations


Melissa Musser


Over the past few years, I have noticed that certain topics will seemingly consume large portions of my life. From my day job as an Association Manager, to my side gig as a city councilperson to my down time as average animal loving mom, reoccurring themes will weave throughout my three worlds. Sometimes those themes will be fun and random like petting zoos; but we’ll save that topic for a later article. One year, it was short term vacation rentals like Airbnb and at another time it was Pokemon Go! I wish that I could tell you that this past month the matter has been something remarkable like puppy rooms, but instead, it’s been Low Impact Development.


I know; I wish it was puppies too, but stick with me. In 2007, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation aimed at the restoration of Puget Sound by 2020. Part of this legislation was a strategy for dealing with pollution and improving the environmental quality of water runoff. Small changes, including restricting where cars could be washed and requiring detention ponds, came first. Fast forward to 2017, and now every city and county in the state has had to implement new building codes requiring that any new construction or significant rebuilding must utilize various strategies to reduce water pollution. It is the goal that any of the water run-off from roads, roofs or other hard surfaces in a newly developed plat stays in the plat. Things like bioswales, pervious pavement driveways, rain gardens and green roofs will become more and more common in our local neighborhoods. Keep in mind one of this measure’s guiding principles, “Designed to provide drainage that more closely mimics the natural landscape prior to development.”


So, what does that mean to the average homeowner? Research into the implementation of this legislation uncovered that many lawmakers


recognized homeowners associations as a beneficial mechanism to help roll out these development changes. As plats are developed over the next few years, expect to see a shift away from the traditional landscaping of Suburbia that we may all be used to. Gone will be the pristine white concrete driveways rolling alongside thick, lush, green grass kept Disneyland perfect with a chemical connection of Scott’s Turf Builder, nitrogen and some secret fertilizer brewed from a family recipe you can’t share. Yards will get smaller, replaced with native growth green spaces left untouched to meet LID requirements. Those homes who have yards may see the rolling lawns of old replaced with rain gardens filled with plants native to Washington State.


If you’re thinking that these changes don’t impact you since your association was built a decade ago, think again. Today’s developers, city staff and landscapers aren’t the only groups committed to strategies to protect Puget Sound. In just the last year, I have reviewed at least a dozen exterior modification applications for low impact landscaping installation that completely removed the existing grass. Landscape professionals including architects and engineers have training on how to integrate water conservation measures into already existing yards. A quick Google search of “low impact yard landscaping” will result in over a million hits. Some cities and water districts are offering grants and rebates as incentives for integrating things like rain gardens, amending soils with mulch and the disconnection of downspouts with redirection into rain barrels or disbursement into the newly constructed rain garden. Research into the benefits of LID strategies to owners include decreased heating, cooling and watering costs. The American Society of Landscape Architects writes, “Homeowners can significantly increase the quality of the environment using innovative low-


18 Community Associations Journal | April 2017


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