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Homeowner groups and county clash over lawns
Lush green might satisfy the association but costs the sprinkling scofflaw hundreds of dollars.
By THOMAS LAKE
Published May 5, 2007
Some live in towns, some in the country. But in Pasco County, most live in a strange 20th-century hybrid: the deed-restricted subdivision.
These communities often have their own peculiar set of commandments. Near the top of the list: Keep your lawn green, or else.
Now the complication. The subdivisions are not nations unto themselves. Residents must obey county laws, too.
And the county cares little for the color of your lawn.
The county does care about conserving water. There's a drought on. Watering is allowed just once a week. So the homeowners are being told they'd better water their lawns - and they'd better not.
"It's a Catch-22," Dick Ortiz, the county's code enforcement director, said on Friday. "Either we write them a ticket for watering or the association writes them a ticket for not watering. So what do they do?"
The county would have you know that its rules rule. Last week, Ortiz sent a dozen officers on the largest watering crackdown in years: Over three days and 16 subdivisions, starting as early as 4 a.m., they wrote 125 citations.
First time is a $30 fine.
Second is $250.
Third is $500, plus you go before a judge.
"Well, you know," said Donna Clark, director of sales and marketing for Lake Jovita, a massive settlement in the green hills west of Dade City, "we don't want dead yards, brown grass, in Lake Jovita."
"We've never had to fine any of our homeowners."
But then you have the man, a resident of an unidentified subdivision, who e-mailed Ortiz on April 27:
The association where I reside likes to use fear and threats of fines as leverage against homeowners. When I say they use fear I must stress that they go as far as keeping the residents scared because they have what I like to call the gestapo squad. This is about 3-4 home association officers or committee members that walk the neighborhood and put every home under a microscope.
The man, who signed his name "Joe E," went on to say his neighbors water their lawns twice a day, four or five times a week, to avoid harassment.
That could change soon. Ortiz is planning another raid for next week. He said it's easy to find the violators.
Look for six brown lawns in a row.
If the seventh is green, start taking names.
Thomas Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.
Here are the subdivisions where people were cited for illegal watering last week:
San Antonio: Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club
Wesley Chapel: Saddlebrook
St. Leo: Lake Jovita
Hudson: Briarwoods, Autumn Oaks, Beacon Woods, The Estates, Viva Villas and Lakeside Woodlands
Port Richey: Bear Creek
New Port Richey: Hunting Creek, Riverchase, Alico Estates, River Crossing, Greenbrook Estates and Cranes Roost