Turf war at Highland Creek

Highland Creek residents fight plan by homeowners association to fix builder's error and change lawns from Bermuda to fescue


Article Courtesy of Charlotte Herald


Published August 18, 2006

Neighborhoods have rules over the color of your house or the height of your fence. Now, residents in one University City neighborhood are fighting their homeowners association over grass.

The Highland Creek Community Association, which oversees a development of nearly 5,000 homes, is pushing to plant fescue in place of Bermuda grass that a homebuilder says it mistakenly put down at about 60 of the 100 homes in the Dominion Crossing neighborhood.


Saying the neighborhood's design standards require fescue grass, the association wants to spray herbicide, dig up the Bermuda and reseed to grow new front lawns from scratch.

Residents say they don't like the solution. They packed a heated meeting about the dispute Wednesday, but some who attended said no one agreed to the association's plan. They're forming a committee to propose an alternate fix.

There's talk of asking for sodding and maintenance, and some are worried about whether herbicide would be dangerous to children, pets and the environment.

Norman Gabel and his wife, Liz, residents in the Dominion Crossing neighborhood, are upset with the homeowners association about possibly changing their grass from Bermuda to fescue.

Resident Norman Gabel said he never wanted Bermuda grass, but the homebuilder planted it in his front yard a couple of years ago. Now that the association wants to take action, he says, the homeowners will suffer.

"We were told we do not have a choice because we are in violation," he said.

The association did not return calls for comment.

Homeowners associations often butt heads with residents over covenant enforcement. Across the nation, squabbles vary over such things as changing paint colors to mailbox models, and some battles have reached a courtroom.

Ryland Homes mistakenly planted the wrong grass while building in 2004, said spokeswoman Marya Jones. The association told Ryland about the mistake in 2005, Jones said.

Ryland immediately stopped using Bermuda grass and began negotiating with the association. The builder has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount for the replacement.

In an Aug. 8 letter to Dominion Crossing residents, Highland Creek Community Association attorney Timothy Sellers said the association can arrange to kill the grass and reseed with fescue at no charge if homeowners provide written permission. Residents who don't participate, the letter says, must do the work themselves or face fines that could be enforced through liens on their homes.

Fescue stays green all year. Bermuda grass turns brown between October and April.

Bermuda grass is aggressive and spreads quickly, overtaking less sturdy strains. Dominion Crossing resident Jennifer Clinard has already found patches of Bermuda grass spotting her fescue lawn.

Bermuda is "great for the golf course," she said. "It's not good for the yard. It looks terrible."

Rich Cooper, professor of turfgrass science at N.C. State University, said lush green lawns are an American passion.

Last summer, a University City resident decided to sell her condominium when the Legacy at Davis Lake homeowners association threatened to fine her each time her Shih Tzus urinated on the common area grass.

In Las Vegas this year, a couple lost their fight with their homeowners association to keep their artificial turf lawn. They argued it was the best choice for a home in the desert. It didn't need watering.

"No other civilized country really does this," Cooper said. "They don't obsess about their lawns. We perceive dark green as being better than anything else."


Fescue is a cool-season grass that will stay green and can grow year-round. It requires watering during the summer months to stay healthy and vibrant. Certain types of fescue continue growing and must be mowed in the winter months.