PHOENIX — Rep. John Kavanagh is in a turf war.
The Fountain Hills Republican has proposed a state law to override any rules of a homeowner association that requires lawns to be seeded with real grass. Instead, it would permit residents to tear all that out and replace it with artificial turf.
And any dispute would be resolved in court.
His HB 2131 may get a fight from the Arizona Association of Community Managers, the organization that represents companies that manage HOAs. But an association spokesman said Wednesday it was still studying the issue and had no immediate comment.
Kavanagh said there are times that state lawmakers need to intercede on behalf of individual homeowners whose preferences are being blocked for what he believes is not a good reason.
And in this case, he told Capitol Media Services, such anti-turf rules actually are bad policies.
“Artificial grass is often superior and looks better than real grass,” Kavanagh said.
What’s also important, he said, is that artificial grass doesn’t need to be watered, something that is crucial during the middle of a drought.
“So it’s unreasonable for these HOAs to prohibit it,” Kavanagh said. Anyway, he said, artificial turf can look better than a poorly maintained natural laws.
There would be some limits on what homeowners would be allowed to do.
Under his legislation, an HOA would be allowed to adopt “reasonable rules” about the installation and appearance of artificial grass. But Kavanagh said these could not be so restrictive as to preclude its installation entirely.
And it would permit an HOA to reject or require the removal of any artificial turf that “creates a health or safety issue that the member does not correct.”
Kavanagh does not dispute that home buyers are made aware if a community is under the control of an HOA. But he said that in many places it is difficult to find a new development that does not have one.
“Many people are forced into HOAs and never imagined that a rogue board would abuse their power by imposing ridiculous restrictions on them,” Kavanagh said. “Somebody has to respect the homeowner.”
Nor was he dissuaded by the fact that members of HOA boards are elected and can be replaced when their terms are up — just like legislators — saying that many residents don’t pay attention to those votes or that there are restrictions on campaigning.
The fight over artificial turf is the latest squabble in what has been a series of disputes between individual homeowners and their HOAs that have been adjudicated at the state capitol.
One long-term — and ongoing — battle concerns what flags homeowners can fly.
Lawmakers have repeatedly forced HOAs to allow an increasing number of banners.
What started out as permission for federal and state flags now includes the flags of any branch of the service. Also permitted is displaying the POW/MIA flag.
And the list has been expanded to allow homeowners to add the Gadsden flag, that yellow flag with the drawing of a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Backers said it simply recognizes the historical role of the flag during the American Revolution. But it also has most recently become a symbol of revolt against federal government authority.
And there are new battles to be fought, including Kavanagh’s HB 2010 adding any “first responder” flag to the list.
Lawmakers also have interceded to limit the ability of HOAs to keep out politicians and their campaign materials. And they have curbed regulations that limit certain off-street parking.
No date has been set for a hearing on the measure.