Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Not In My Backyard on In Your Backyard

UPDATE: Lake Frances Estates HOA has tabled the Florida-friendly landscaping complaint for the time being. It seems the HOA's covenants don't restrict Ms. O'Connors ability to have a natural landscaping. We'll be watching to see what happens and that the neighborhood harassment ceases.

UPDATE: Lauren Ritchie and Mo O'Connor will be guests on "In Your Backyard" this morning at 11:15am. Don't miss it! If you're not in the radio listening area, you can listen to "In Your Backyard" on http://www.wlbe.org/.

UPDATE: I drove by Ms. O'Connor's landscaped yard and it's wonderfully low maintenance and very water-friendly. It looks beautiful and I know that the shady lot is cooler than the some of the huge dead and weedy turf lawns in the rest of the community.

Lauren Ritchie has updated the reader's response to her editorial, 'Lauren on Lake' Orlando Sentinel column. Very interesting. The support seems to be on Mo's side! Indeed, Florida needs mo' water conserving yards!

Photo by Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel

Lauren Ritchie's editorial on Lake Frances Estates HOA's squabble in the Orlando Sentinel certainly showcases that fences make good neighbors and Florida-friendly isn't always friendly.

Mo O' Connor's landscaping has stirred retirees out of their comfort zone and into legal action. For six years she has been retro-designing her Lake County landscape to be more eco-friendly, in other words, less maintenance, less water consuming, and no chemical applications. From Richie's photo, her landscape looks cool in Florida's summer, and easy care. Cranky critics of the landscape say the care-free, natural landscaping encourages snakes and rats. Helloooooooo?!?!!??! This is Florida, home to Silver Springs, where Ross Allen's Serpentarium, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon reside. Florida has over 44 native snake species.

Note to Northerners: Anacondas are not native to Florida.

Repeat after me: "Snakes are your friend." Having black snakes and racers in your yard will stop you from having rodents. Especially if you have an abundance of citrus trees and lakes close by. Snakes benefit by keeping the rodent population controlled. Get rid of the snakes and you will have rats. Lots of them. Lake Frances Estates residents thinking that they don't have snakes living in their yards in a lake-front community makes me wonder how they have survived in Florida. Ireland is the only location in the world that doesn't have snakes, and yes, I know it's an euphemism for pagans, but it's also because of the Ice Age and land isolation.

Tip of the day: Know what to do when you see a snake.

Florida has seen increasing amount of unnecessary water use (particularly in non-native communities of snowbirds) on St. Augustinegrass lawns since the 1990's. Scare tactics of Gestapo-like HOAs threatening lawsuits to any resident who cannot keep their lawn green since the 2005 state legislation seems to be falling on deaf ears. Florida homeowners know that the law, for the most part, is on their side. While this law does not exempt homeowners from having landscapes that are completely gravel, cemented entirely, or ugly, unmowed, and weedy front yards, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But less turf, more ornamentals, groundcovers, and shade trees are a good alternative to the high maintenance landscapes that can waste up to 200,000 gallons of water per lawn a month.

Mo O' Connor's yen for easy care yard or the Lake Frances Estates HOA's attitude is not unusual. Zellwood Station's HOA board was inundated with complaints about resident Barbara Tubb's Florida Friendly landscape. Uneasy neighbors cited fire hazard with the pine straw mulch. I spoke to the HOA committee and they tabled the charges. Five years later, there hasn't been a fire in this mobile home park.

Florida-friendly landscaping can be attractive, beneficial to wildlife, and protect our natural resources. It's not to be feared. Silver Springs was a world renowned tourist attraction for its natural beauty long before Walt Disney World put Central Florida on the map.

Embracing the natural aesthetics of Florida landscaping is one of our best policies that will help preserve our state's natural resources for future generations.

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