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HOA 'turf war' shines a light on Arizona water crisis and leads to new state bill

A Paradise Valley resident's fight against their community homeowner's association has led to a proposed bill that prohibits HOAs from banning artificial grass.

PHOENIX — Paradise Valley homeowner Sherry Lund thought she was doing the right thing for her front lawn and state last fall when she installed artificial turf to conserve water. 

“I save $1,100 a month on water," said Lund. "I saw all the water being wasted. Here we are in a drought situation in our state. Our grass wouldn’t grow in the summer. The heat was so intense. You couldn’t grow anything and have it live.” 

HOA Turf War

But Lund said her homeowner's association (HOA) found her in violation of the Judson Community bylaws and told her if she did not remove the fake grass, she'd be fined $250 dollars a day.

“I couldn’t believe it," said Lund. "I said, 'No this isn't right.' We submitted our samples and did everything if it had been permitted. They said we will sue you if you don't remove it in 14 days.”  

Now Lund and the HOA are suing each other over the turf war. 

12 News reached out to Associa AZ, which manages the HOA, but have not gotten a response. 

Lund brought her fight to Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, who introduced a bill in 2017 that would prohibit HOAs from penalizing homeowners for installing artificial turf. 

He's now introducing another bill. 

HB 2131 simply allows people who live in HOAs to have high-quality artificial grass in areas where their HOA allows natural grass,” said Representative Kavanagh. 

Beyond front yard aesthetics 

Kavanagh said his bill should gain bipartisan support and seeks to address Arizona's looming water crisis since the state is one of several in the West that's facing a megadrought. 

“We expect yet another reduction in our Lake Mead water supply," said Kavanagh. "One that will also begin to hit cities. For homes that have natural grass, 90% of the water they consume is to water the lawn.”  

Gary Woodard is the principal official with Water Resources Consulting, which analyzes patterns and trends in municipal water areas. Woodard said that more often than not, new developments are using artificial turf as opposed to irrigated turf due to the state's water conservation concerns. 

“I don’t like the thought that some HOAs are trying to set water policy," said Woodard. "I’d like it to go further and something broader and state that no HOA can enact or enforce a rule that’s in conflict with state or local conservation efforts.”  

"There are benefits to artificial turf," said Matthew Boggs with Arizona Artificial Lawns. "A synthetic lawn requires no water, it requires far less use of pesticides and gasoline to maintain a lawn. We've seen a significant shift for both residential and commercial developments." 

Sherry Lund remains optimistic HB 2131 will pass and believes Arizonans can tackle a problem that is bigger than a blade of fake gas. 

 “We can make a difference,” Lund said.   

RELATED: Arizona House approves ban on close-in videotaping of police officers

RELATED: Arizona Senate passes Democrats bill creating low-income tax credit

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