Photos: Courtesy of Harold Leidner Landscape Architects

We’re big fans of artificial turf here at CandysDirt.com, as it’s a water-wise way to have a lawn without all of the seasonal maintenance of turfgrass. However, some homeowners associations have outlawed artificial turf despite its many benefits. One reader writes:

I am an interior designer who worked on a residential project for about three years, and was involved in every aspect of the the design of the home. The home is in a gated community called [redacted]. We submitted the plans to the architectural committee through the builder when we began the project and they were approved. Nowhere in the CCRs did it say that we had to submit further landscape plans for approval. When we got to the landscape design, we wanted a minimal look to coordinate with the home. We are empty nesters and wanted as little maintenance as possible. As a result, we decided to go with a combination of artificial grass, charcoal gravel, and minimal natural plants in both the front and back landscaping. The artificial grass is of a high-end quality that makes it very hard to tell if it is natural or artificial. 

Needless to say, our HOA sent us a denial notification giving us no reason. There is nothing in the CCRs that says you cannot have artificial grass. We’ve hired a lawyer to handle this and have had no success. We even offered to remove the artificial grass on  just the narrow crescent that aligns the sidewalk and they would not accept that. 

We would greatly appreciate any advice you have on this subject. With the new technology in artificial grass, there is no question that it is the way to go! With Texas heat and watering restrictions, this is a wonderful option. I really want to be the person that gets the board members, who are not keeping up with the times, to make a change! 

We asked our most-trusted landscaping expert, Harold Leidner of Harold Leidner Landscape Architects, to weigh in on this obviously contentious issue:
 

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There is an interesting sign war going on in at least one East Dallas neighborhood, Enclave at Grove Hill. This sign, posted by one of the residents, is being met with resistance and called “offensive” by some in the neighborhood. It is in front of the home of sometimes political activist and candidate Adam Bazaldua, a friend who teaches culinary arts and believes firmly in freedom of speech, especially at election time.

Despite the protests of his HOA, Adam says he is leaving the sign up until after the election. 

“This sign sits proudly in our family’s yard displayed next to (his daughter’s) school sign and behind a Beto sign. This week we received a violation from the HOA because our sign is “offensive” according to a neighbor who made a complaint.  Is it irony that the complainant has a Cruz sign in her yard?” asks Adam?

“I’m offended by the fact that anyone can find these statements offensive!” he wrote on Facebook. “The Covenants and Restrictions clearly state that Political Signs can be erected to support candidates, political parties, sponsorships, political issues or proposals. Our HOA president says that these aren’t the right kind of political issues to be protected by that language and that it is offensive.”

Really? Can you put up Halloween decorations in this neighborhood? Christmas? Hanukkah? Isn’t that personal expression?  (more…)

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Dear Diary,

OMG. My HOA is sooooo horrible. They’re, like, the worst ever. I mean, it’s like the mean girls of the school. I can’t even. They’re just trashing my entire experience. Like, totally! Turns out my condo isn’t warrantable. As if. And that rush fee they charged ate my swag money. Hashtag whatever.

Signed,

Throwin’ Shade Gal

Hey girl. I hear ya. But you might as well chillax, ’cause all HOAs (Home Owner Associations) are typically a hassle when you’re buying or selling a property. Seriously.

A property with mandatory HOA always adds another pile of paperwork to the transaction. And additional costs. Some more than others. You may be dealing with a Home Owners Association that governs the neighborhood where you live. Or you may be in a condominium under HOA management. These associations enforce restrictions, oversee common areas, supervise maintenance and repairs, … and generally ensure everyone follows the rules they’ve all agreed to.

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Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Hiring outside professionals to assess the systems and structure of a condominium is often scoffed at by HOAs because of the expense.  It’s as shortsighted as complaining about the cost of toothpaste. Condominiums are larger and definitely more complex than single-family homes. It’s negligent not to have plans in place that understand the current condition of the overall building coupled with a plan for regular maintenance that stretches out as far as the longest-lived components.

It’s also critical that reserve studies are performed by outsiders.  HOAs and management companies may either lack the expertise required or want to soft-pedal the truth to avoid uncomfortable conversations with residents.  We are generally “shoot the messenger” kind of people.

Another reason for using an outsider can be managing companies that also have their own staff contracted to perform repairs.  If they’re the ones doing the capital reserve studies, isn’t that a whopping conflict of interest? Didn’t Fair Park teach us that competitive bidding is best?

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frisco power lines

After months of preparation, the State Office of Administrative Hearings today began proceedings in Austin regarding a proposed 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco. This power line has been at the center of a hotly contested debate between Frisco homeowner associations and Realtors on one side and Brazos Electric, CoServ Electric, and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) on the other.

“All the witnesses are done [as of this evening], with briefs due Aug. 28 and reply briefs due Sept. 11,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). He spoke to CandysDirt this evening after finishing the day in the hearings. “Once all the briefs are done, the two administrative law judges will go about the task of rendering their decision.”

Of the 715 intervenors testifying (most through written testimony), 683 were part of the Bury the Lines Campaign. The remainder of the intervenors were people from the city of Frisco, Brazos Electric, homeowners not represented by the Bury the Lines campaign, and the PUC staff.

The West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos Electric on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will be built through heavily populated neighborhoods along Main Street or Stonebrook Parkway to the Dallas North Tollway, will adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

From the beginning, this has been a highly unusual situation, with Collin County Realtors fighting side-by-side with homeowners.

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Old-people-with-crazy-shirts11

This woman could be the reason why some HOAs are dysfunctional.

HOA Boards are better than anything playing at the Winspear. What should be the stuff of banality and tedium are often filled with grade-school antics. Since posting the sharewithjon@candysdirt.com email address, a few readers have supplied their own stories to add to my own. Here’s a sample…

Imaginary Degrees and Intimidation
One reader spoke of a “fancy” building where in order to get her way, one resident pretended to be a lawyer in order to intimidate and bully fellow neighbors. Turns out there was a code violation (because codes change over time) that the HOA board (rightly) wanted to bring it up to code. This faux lawyer was part of a cadre of pitch-fork wielding villagers telling the HOA that the item was grandfathered in – this even after the City of Dallas inspectors cited the complex for the code violation. “The legal advice she gave when demanding her way was incorrect and caused turmoil and mass hysteria, thus stopping the board from getting things done.” Several HOA board members resigned because of the “hateful, personal attacks at Board meetings and via phone calls and emails” instigated by this woman and her bamboozled followers.

Later, when a neighborhood-changing issue was raised, this same self-accredited “lawyer” sharpened her pitchfork and became one of the most vocal critics. Resurrecting her battle tactics, she again sent out “crazy, long winded emails … to cause worry and fear among the residents.”

While one person can certainly cause a ruckus, this HOA apparently had a history of refusing to keep the building up to snuff with shabby lobbies and hallways with old/smelly carpeting. This writer also spoke of years of mismanaging funds. Some of this can be explained by complacent owners and a history of closed-door HOA board meetings (in complete violation of Texas law). Complacency and exclusion are a recipe for disaster – like leaving a 15-year-old in a mall with a credit card.

Jump for more!

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Power lines

As expected, on Jan. 15 Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across west Frisco. In response, several Frisco homeowners have retained legal counsel to represent their interests to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Their attorney, Francis B. Majorie of The Majorie Firm Ltd., will be compensated solely from fees arranged for by the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) from the Texas Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee. Majorie does not represent the CCAR or the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC); he only represents the individuals who have retained him.

“I was approached by several interested homeowners who have retained me and have asked me to be available to answer questions and enable the homeowners to present a united front in that they all have a common interest in asking that the power lines be buried,” Majorie said.

In order to answer questions, there is a town hall meeting Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Pioneer Heritage Middle School, 1649 High Shoals Dr., Frisco.

As we reported in November, the WFHOC and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line. Through that website, they have gathered names of potential “intervenors” who could be a part of the legal proceedings surrounding the CCN.

“An intervenor is someone who is directly affected by the imposition of the power line, who chooses to appear and be a party in the proceedings,” Majorie said. “Because they are a party, they have a right to appear at all the hearings, the right to offer evidence, they have to be available to provide discovery to others. It’s the functional equivalent of being a party in a lawsuit.”

A 45-day period where people can voice their concerns to the PUC began when Brazos filed on Jan. 15. The PUC then has up to a year to make its decision regarding transmission line route and if the line will be above ground or below ground. Jump to read more!

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Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

All eyes are on Collin County as Brazos Electric Power Cooperative plans to apply for permission next week with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco.

A rare partnership between Frisco homeowner associations and realtors to fight the proposed above-ground power lines has caught the attention of regulators in the state capitol.

“Realtors don’t get involved in regulatory issues very much—Austin is paying very close attention, and the regulatory community as a whole is definitely interested in this issue,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). “It’s rare to have such a pronounced public outcry, and the PUC acknowledged this in our meeting yesterday.”

As we reported in November, the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will run through heavily populated neighborhoods between the Dallas North Tollway and Farm-to-Market Road 423, would adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

Their efforts have already had an impact: The power company’s application to the PUC next week is expected to include underground line options, in addition to the original proposal of an above-ground, 120-foot, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco. The official name given by Brazos is the Stonebrook Transmission Line and Substation project. Jump to read more.

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