By Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — Differences in water usage best practices during a drought and homeowners’ association landscaping requirements are the target of new legislation.
The goal of House Bill 1165, introduced by District 34 Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, is to require HOAs’ landscaping guidelines to align with water conservation guidelines during a drought.
Many HOAs or condominium associations have requirements on the type of landscaping allowed — which often excludes fire resistant or low-water plants. The bill would prohibit HOAs from fining residents for employing low-water landscaping, but does not require them to meet conservation standards.
Section 4 of the bill addresses the public sector by encouraging state-funded large building projects to use drought-resistant landscaping and wildfire-ignition-resistant landscaping.
Carrie Sessions from the Department of Ecology mentioned that her department received complaints during Washington’s last drought emergency in 2015 from individuals who were still required to water their lawns to avoid HOA fines.
Kristen Bryant spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the Sierra Club. Bryant noted that often in new developments that have HOAs the landscaping requirements are based on the grass that was planted to sell the house. Yet, over time keeping that grass green takes a lot of water.
The four people who spoke at a Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources hearing on Jan. 22 supported the bill.
Orwall voiced her hopes that this year the bill would pass, as it is something she has been working on for three years.
This story is part of a series of reports from the Washington State Legislature provided by a news team sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.