Parched grass yields yard debates

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel


Published June 10, 2008


DeBARY - Peter Cervone follows Central Florida's watering rules -- just twice a week. Still, he has brown spots. His homeowners association fined him $25 for having dead patches and has threatened to resod his lawn and get attorneys involved.

"It's just ridiculous," Cervone said. "If I cut up the grass and put new sod down, it requires twice as much water for that to grow." An association official said in an e-mail that the issue has been "blown way out of proportion."

You can find brown spots all over Central Florida, including at other houses in Cervone's Saxon Woods' neighborhood following the twice-a-week rule.

But those residents said they had not heard from the association. Cervone said his sprinklers are working properly but just can't keep up with the hot, dry weather.

He thinks he was targeted first but that the association has not gone after his neighbors because of media coverage.

Peter Cervone checks out his lawn in DeBary. His homeowners association has fined him for having brown patches.


The association's representative sent one e-mail but has not responded to questions from the Orlando Sentinel.

Q: Could this happen where I live?

A: Such tiffs could become more common if officials go to once-a-week watering in cooler months next year, said Volusia County environmental official Steve Kintner. He and others say they've heard about such disputes in the past, though they didn't know of any others going on right now in Central Florida. Nobody tracks it. But the stories they've heard are similar: Homeowner associations want lush lawns so neighborhoods stay pretty. But it's hot in Florida. It has been so dry. And you just can't run your sprinklers whenever you want.

"We would likely be lenient as we have seen areas covered by our community irrigation system showing signs of being dry this past month or two," said Jim Witmer, president of the Waterford Lakes Community Association in east Orange County.

Q: What should you do?

A: Central Florida's water woes are only expected to get worse. So associations are going to have ease up, said Erick Trivedi, an Orlando attorney who focuses on homeowner-association laws. He said folks such as Cervone should get involved in their associations to make changes from the inside.

Q: What's the worst that could happen?

A: Associations have power, so don't ignore them. Ed Simmons of Tampa is still fighting a $119,000 bill that began as a $2,200 charge from his association to fix his yard. The vast majority of the bill isn't for the sod. It's for the association's legal fees, court records show.

Q: What are the restrictions?

A: Most of Central Florida goes by the St. Johns River Water Management District's limits: You can water twice a week on certain days, depending on your address. No watering is allowed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Details:

Q: What could change?

A: The agency may tighten restrictions even more next year. Changes could include curbing irrigation to once a week during cooler months. Two local workshops are coming up:

*1 p.m. June 18 in the Seminole County Commission Chambers, 1101 E. First St., Sanford

*10 a.m. July 3 in the Lake County Commission Chambers, 315 W. Main St., Tavares