Landscaping and the ACC

impact materials.” Even a quick search on Pinterest for “front yard landscaping” will result in articles from well-respected magazines like Better Homes and Gardens and Sunset touting the shift to low impact landscaping.

The big reveal that I am leading up to is this: maintaining the expectation of a pristine, bright green lawn as a community standard is a thing of the past. Not only is it a thing of the past, it may soon be against the law in Washington State for an owners’ association to require it. During this year’s legislative session, House Bill 1172 titled, “Encouraging low-water landscaping practices as a drought alleviation tool,” was being drafted and at the writing of this article, it was headed to public hearing. If passed into law it would add language to both the HOA and Condo acts prohibiting assessing fines for brown lawns when a water district has instigated a watering ban and in addition the bill stated, “The governing documents may not prohibit the installation of drought resistant landscaping.” The reason behind the need for this bill were complaints from a high number of owners fined for lawns they had let “go brown” to conserve water. The other complaints were from owners whose low impact, sustainable landscaping applications had been denied under the explanation that all yards in the Association were required to include grass. In addition, other states are passing laws that prohibit passing restrictions or nullify already existing governance that restricts artificial turf or drought resistant plants.

With changes in state laws, fundamental shifts in accepted landscaping practices and a general wish by owners to have a positive effect on the environment, it is a good time to review your yard appearance standards. Review your Declaration to verify if

“grass, turf or lawn” is detailed as a requirement for yards or instead, do your covenants state something like, “yards should be maintained in a way that conveys pride of ownership and is in harmony with the other homes in the Association.” “Sustainable Landscaping” can be open to interpretation so establish, clarify and communicate what that means to your community. A board should meet with a landscape professional who is experienced in low impact practices and develop acceptable standards for your Association that are in keeping with the personality and feel of your owners. Architecture and landscape guidelines generally favor keeping appearances neat and consistent throughout the community. There are alternatives to a yard full of grass that can meet low impact standards, reduce water use from irrigation and still be in keeping with the original look and feel of the neighborhood. You are not obligated to accept every sustainable application that comes forward, but proactively putting forward options that are acceptable will demonstrate an understanding of how the term “yard” is changing. Requirements that may be too cost prohibitive or that create unnecessary barriers should be avoided. Once the Board has come to consensus on what measures suit the HOA, your attorney can draft the changes to the standards so that they are enforceable.

Search the internet for grass-free landscaping, sustainable

landscaping and low impact yards for pictures to develop visual examples of acceptable options. While on the internet, don’t forget to take some time to search for images of “Puppy Rooms at Work.” While it will have absolutely no bearing on drafting new yard standards for your community, you may come across images of rooms filled with happiness.


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