Article Courtesy of The
By David Marshall
Published January 12, 2020
a lifelong Florida resident, I have seen the population explode from roughly 4
million to over 20 million residents in my lifetime. And since I have been
involved with many of the growth and building industries, I have had a court
side seat to see how development has changed.
In the early days,
some developers would purchase large tracts of land, put in
roads and little other infrastructure, and wait for the
buyers. Others would buy smaller tracts of land and
completely denude the vegetation and even reshape the land
profile to fit their ideal of a perfect neighborhood. It was
almost a scorched earth policy where streets were laid out,
development density was as high as possible, and uniformity
seemed to be the watch word.
As we have entered an era of a more enlightened approach to
development due to buyer awareness and increasing
development oversight by regulatory agencies, many
neighborhoods have become much more nature and environment
Along with this change in philosophy, developments have been
built with central control of the neighborhoods directed by
a locally run Homeowners Association. The HOA is charged
with overseeing compliance of building standards, building
style, and conformity with covenants and lifestyles.
Whether it is a golf community, a senior living arrangement,
condo, or apartment complex, these HOAs are charged with
assuring that early buyers continue to see the type of
growth they bought into maintained as the development goes
through its build-out phase and beyond.
Residents can be recognized for implementing
Florida-Friendly Landscaping practices.
new form of neighborhood that has seen growth across the nation is Conservation
Development. “Conservation” can mean many things to many people. These
neighborhoods may value water friendly or low energy environments, cluster
housing with large open spaces between, wildlife preservation, or community
These types of
developments have been supported by growth management
agencies as methods to avoid energy intensive, water hungry,
and sprawling neighborhoods. Locally, Florida-Friendly
Landscaping (FFL) has become part of this concept. It is
supported by legislation passed in 2009 that encourages
adoption of FFL principles and prevents HOAs or local
ordinances from prohibiting implementation of FFL in yards.
In a nutshell, Florida-Friendly Landscaping is a practice
built around nine principles that encourage the use of
low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable
Principles include right plant-right place, encouraging
effective use of water and mulch, fertilizing appropriately
or even eliminating use of fertilizers, reducing runoff and
ground water contamination, using native and non-invasive
plants, and encouraging plantings that recognize and provide
for wildlife, such as pollinators and birds. For more
information go to: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/.
Now, not all neighborhoods are developed with FFL in mind,
and often original concepts and development requirements may
seem at odds with FFL.
Examples include wanting to maintain a continuous swath of
green lawn from one area to another, limiting the placement
and numbers of trees, requiring certain types of
groundcovers or grasses that are not as pest or drought
resistant, or even mandating a certain percentage of lawn
(turf) per building lot.
And certainly, many neighborhoods have
legitimate reasons for trying to maintain a certain “look”
or lifestyle. But the beauty of FFL is that it is not built
around mandates. It is flexible enough to allow for
individual or neighborhood adoption of many of the aspects
of the nine principles.
Most HOAs, particularly as a development approaches or reaches completion of
the initial build-out stage, are comprised of homeowners interested in
maintaining the style and design as originally intended.
Homeowners associations can embrace Florida-Friendly
Landscaping principles and help protect Florida's natural resources
while still having a beautiful, lush neighborhood.
They have an investment that they want to protect, and they want to assure
that standards are consistent. And as the neighborhood moves from completed
to a more mature project, it becomes even more challenging and important
that the HOA stay on top of the covenants and standards as newer, less
involved buyers move in and look to adapt their ideas to an existing
I have seen developments with a wide range of this type of control, from an
expressed ideal loosely enforced to a tightly monitored and patrolled
profile that may elicit strident response to variations from the standards.
In order to avoid conflict, every neighbor should completely read and
understand what they are buying into before they sign on the bottom line.
Covenants and restrictions are almost always clearly provided prior to a
sale and potential buyers must read and understand what these rules mean. If
it is unclear, ask your broker for more information, or go to the HOA. They
are almost always happy to help buyers understand requirements to avoid any
disputes in the future.
Particularly in Florida, we are especially sensitive to water issues. We
have seen the impact of overuse of fertilizers and pesticides that get into
groundwater, either through storm water runoff or by soaking into the water
table. Septic tanks, when poorly installed and maintained, are also
potential sources of groundwater contamination.
Algal blooms are often evidence of downstream damage that can occur. The
rules regarding these issues have become more informed and effective as time
and information has become available. The use of water retention and storm
water ponds, newer septic tank designs, and understanding flow processes
have made us all better stewards of our lived environment.
I believe HOAs should not be considered an opponent. They are made up of
homeowners that serve their role on a mostly volunteer basis. Know the
rules, get to know the people on the HOA, or volunteer to serve.
As we enjoy our lives in a built environment, we all must understand our
roles as neighbors, investors, and protectors. Florida-Friendly Landscaping
principles attempt to guide residents to landscaping that is less demanding,
less energy intensive, and protective of the sensitive environments in which