photo by Chris Zuppa, the St. Petersburg Times
In a surprise move from an organization better known for its pandering and grandstanding, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 2080 and it now sits on our mannequin of a Governor's desk, awaiting his signature.
Senate Bill 2080 empowers any homeowner in Florida to install what's called a Florida Friendly yard, despite what their homeowners association has to say. If you're a Floridian, call the Governor's office and insist that he sign this rare breath of common sense.
Now for some background, since most of you reading this aren't Floridians. Florida is home to a vicious form of governance called a Homeowners Association. States all over the country have HOAs enshrined in law, but Florida's HOAs are particularly empowered. What this means is that if you buy into a neighborhood with an HOA, that HOA writes and enforces the covenants and restrictions placed on a homeowner. Restrictions like banning yard signs or wash lines, forbidding certain paint colors, limiting the number of guests a homeowner can entertain, etc. All of this is Gladys Kravitzism is passed and decided upon in the name of preserving property values. This stuff would be an irritant and little more except for the other side to these deed restrictions and covenants. Florida law grants these HOAs enforcement power and most of them don't hesitate to use it.
Last October, a 66-year-old man was jailed without bail over his brown lawn. He'd run afoul of his HOA and they had him arrested and jailed because his lawn had died. Here's the story from the St. Pete Times.
Anyhow, most if not all of the HOAs in Florida require that all lawns be sodded with lush, green St. Augustine grass. St. Augustine is the only real lawn grass suited for our climate. Sort of. It can handle our sun and heat without any trouble. However, what it can't handle is that it doesn't rain here in the winter. From October to May, it's as dry as a bone and St. Augustine grass will turn brown and die within a matter of weeks. Enter the sprinkler system. St. Augustine needs to be irrigated at least once a week in order for it to eek by. In order for it to look its best, it needs to be irrigated a lot more than that and it needs that irrigation year-round, even during our rainy season.
Public enemy #1
Senate Bill 2080 will allow anyone to tear out his St. Augustine lawn and replace it with a landscape that doesn't need to be irrigated. How revolutionary. Predictably, HOAs are having shivering fits while the water authorities can barely contain their glee.
So omnipresent has St. Augustine grass become that 62% of the potable water used in the great state of Florida gets sprinkled on lawns. I was barking like a mad man about it last March. Sixty-two per cent. That is an unconscionable amount of water wasted in the name of preserving property values.
It gets worse. Florida is in an extreme water crisis. We're three years into a serious drought and municipal water supplies are dwindling all across the state. Until someone finds a solution, we're headed for a world of hurt. This crisis could have been avoided to begin with and could be mitigated now if we do something about that 62% number.
Water is a limited, public resource. How other people use it is a concern all members of a community hold in common. The water people waste on their lawns really is going to start affecting everyone and it will happen a lot sooner than people think it will. Charlie, please sign Senate Bill 2080.