Chandler residents petitioning HOA to allow artificial turf

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An HOA in Chandler is blocking its residents from putting in fake grass in some situations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) An HOA in Chandler is blocking its residents from putting in fake grass in some situations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Residents are required to have 50 percent of the front yard and 50 percent of the backyard grass, and two trees. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Residents are required to have 50 percent of the front yard and 50 percent of the backyard grass, and two trees. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Many people are switching from real grass landscapes to artificial turf because of lower water usage and less maintenance. But some Chandler residents can't because their homeowners' association won't allow it. 

"We couldn't keep it green, our water bills were very high," said Cathy Isenberg, citing some reasons why she switched.

She said her tree in the front yard provides a lot of shade, so the grass doesn't grow. She didn't want brown grass anymore, so she switched to artificial turf - not knowing it went against the Ocotillo Community Association's design guidelines.

"We're required to have 50 percent of the front yard and 50 percent of the backyard grass, and two trees, so that's quite a bit of water," Isenberg said.

Even though the City of Chandler offers rebates for low water use landscaping, this community says, "Any type of artificial flower, plant, tree or turf is not permitted when Visible from Neighboring Property."

A neighbor who put the synthetic stuff in his backyard, which was allowed because it's out of view, told us his water bill went down 50 percent.

Isenberg said after she got a call from the HOA, asking for the installation of the artificial turf to be halted, she set up a meeting. 

"We had a meeting with the HOA, and a week later they told us no," Isenberg said. 

So she started a petition to present to the HOA board, to allow artificial turf as an option. 

"We've got several online signatures," she said. "So far, I think we're up to 175."

Rich Slagle, a homeowner near Isenberg, put in artificial turf four years ago, also unaware of the rules. He took the HOA to court, and he lost. He had to re-install real grass and pay the HOA's attorneys fees. 

"Probably the tune of $40,000-plus," Slagle said. 

"Why anyone would prohibit that is beyond me," said State Senator John Kavanagh.

He introduced a bill last session saying HOAs couldn't prohibit artificial grass, but "the association may reject or require the removal of a member's artificial grass if the artificial grass creates a health or safety issue that the member does not correct."

It died in committee.

"The chairman of the Rules Committee philosophically believed that if you're in an HOA, you're in a contractual relationship you enter into, and you have to obey the rules no matter what," Kavanagh said. "I disagree with this because sometimes the rules are wrong."

He said he may try to introduce it again once committee leadership changes.

Isenberg said she hopes she doesn't have to wait that long. 

"The HOA is supposed to be representing its residents, and I feel that certain individuals are sitting there not recognizing what we would like to have our community offer," she said.

We emailed board members individually and showed up to their office. The general manager for the Ocotillo Community Association emailed us this statement:

Thank you for reaching out and giving the association an opportunity to participate in this conversation.  An official response on behalf of the Board of Directors requires review and approval by all members of the Board, and unfortunately, some of the Board members are on vacation and unavailable to participate on such short notice.  If a follow up at a later date would be beneficial the Board would very much appreciate the opportunity to provide a statement regarding their position on this issue.  

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

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Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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