LEHI, Utah (KSL TV) — While building a new home in Lehi, Jared Hadley was eager to heed calls to implement landscaping that uses little or no water.
“We saw this as an opportunity to be like, hey, we could really make a difference in the environment,” he said.
Hadley installed landscaping consisting of a few aquatic plants surrounded by river rocks and decorative gravel. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
It’s the kind of landscaping that has the warm support of everyone from water scientists to Utah politicians.
But you know who doesn’t like that? The Hadley Homeowners Association.
An email from his HOA, Holbrook Farms, says he’ll likely have to rip out the gravel parts to put in something they approve of like “mulch, river rock, or sod.”
Hadley says he protested, pointing out that gravel is the best option.
“There are no chemicals like mulch. It’s not grass, where we have to water it,” he said.
Over email, an HOA representative told Hadley that he should have submitted an application and site plan before doing the work. He was instructed to submit the paperwork for work already completed, but warned that if the HOA doesn’t sign off and the rep is “confident” they won’t, Hadley will have to fix it at will or get away with it. face fines.
And indeed, on Thursday, Hadley learned that her landscaping was not approved and that she was being ordered to replace it. “It’s just, it’s mind-boggling,” he said.
An HOA decision with an iron fist on what an exterior can look like is not unique. In fact, KSL investigators have heard from more than a dozen people who live in various HOAs in Utah saying they want to install xeriscaping or artificial turf to conserve water, but are being pushed back by their associations.
The question is: can they do that?
Here in Utah there is a new law, HB282, which states that municipalities and HOAs cannot have rules prohibiting water landscaping.
Sen. Mike McKell, who co-sponsored the new legislation, says the bill was inspired by Utah’s dire water situation as well as foreseeable water problems for decades to come.
“We are in a drought,” McKell told KSL investigators. “We’re also in a state that’s growing at a rate that just isn’t sustainable without making improvements across the state.”
McKell says he thinks the bill struck an important balance by requiring government agencies and associations to allow people who want to retain legal protection to do so without prohibiting cities and associations from ensuring that their communities retain their aesthetics.
He says the purpose of the law is “to make sure that if somebody has a good plan that includes xeriscaping, let’s make sure they can do it.”
Back in Hadley, can Holbrook Farms force him to remove the gravel or other xeriscaping he’s already installed? The association certainly thinks so.
Holbrook Farms declined to discuss any of this on camera and declined to discuss Hadley’s situation.
When asked if they think their landscaping policies comply with current Utah law, Holbrook Farms Community Manager Amanda Howell replied via email, saying “yes. “.
“Holbrook Farms has actively implemented water-friendly landscaping techniques in our community covenants, terms and regulations for the past five years,” Howell said in an email. “All homeowners must comply with our existing site plan review process before making any exterior changes to their home.”
HB282 clarifies that HOAs can require landlords to comply with site plan submission and review processes.
According to HOA rules, the use of most landscaping materials that do not use water is prohibited, including concrete, masonry products, pavers, brick, stone, pavers, tiles, terrazzo, flagstones, slate, rock, pebbles, gravel, wood, wood chips, bark, decking and artificial grass.
Holbrook Farms sent KSL investigators a copy of a brochure they gave Hadley. It describes waterscape ideas that are approved. Most of the images in the brochure feature grass and other plants, all of which Hadley says require more water than the decorative gravel he will likely have to remove.
When asked if he would do something different if he had to do it again, he replied, “I wouldn’t buy a house through an HOA.”