Local News

Fake grass causing neighborhood flap

Posted August 20, 2008

— Les Bernstein may have the greenest yard in Raleigh's Falls River neighborhood, but he hasn't turned on his sprinkler system all year.

After trying to maintain his fescue lawn during the drought, Bernstein chose to install low-maintenance, water-saving artificial grass.

"The only thing you have to do is sweep it off once in a while," he said.

Bernstein made the $6,500 investment this May, but it wasn't long before the Falls River Community Association weighed in. The homeowners association sent a letter telling Bernstein that he needed signatures from neighbors because he did not get prior approval for the artificial grass.

"(Neighbors) look at their lawns, which are weeds or are hard to maintain, and they look at this, and the first thing they want to do is install it themselves," Bernstein said.

He says he gathered the signatures and presented them to the board, but he got back a letter saying he has to remove the artificial grass by Sept. 30.

"We were horrified," Bernstein said. "We put a lot of money into this to keep our house looking good, to keep our lawn looking good."

He says the association's covenants, which require fescue grass, were written 14 years ago, before the modern artificial grass he had installed existed. It comes in different color variations to match the ocal surroundings. It requires no watering, no mowing and no fertilizer.

"We keep telling them it's time (for the covenants) to be updated and step into the real world," Bernstein said. "They won't come back from their decision."

The Falls River Community Association did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.

"I'm not looking to ruffle feathers. I want my lawn to look good, like any other homeowner," Bernstein said.

Homeowners associations aren't the only groups dealing with the push toward environmentally friendly projects. Local and state governments also are trying to catch up with new developments.

State lawmakers took some action last year, enacting a law that overrides some neighborhood restrictions on solar panels.

"These technologies are so new that the rules of the road don't really exist yet," said Steve Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Solar Center in Raleigh.

He says last year's law governing solar panels is a step in the right direction.

"I think the appropriate role for state and local government is, to some extent, to take all of the different types of concerns and try to find a reasonable balance that achieves the best public good," Kalland said.

Meanwhile, Les Bernstein takes his case back to the homeowners association Wednesday night. He's waiting to see if he'll lose his green yard.

"Life goes on," he said. "When you come back next year, this is liable to be all weeds or all dirt or something."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • dianebearden Aug 29, 2008


  • Citizen7265 Aug 21, 2008

    And what happens if you don't pay the HOA fines?
    Also, what can they actually do other than harrass him if he doesn't remove it?

    HOA's need to pick thier battles carefully!

  • Citizen7265 Aug 21, 2008

    Bet the HOA' "leaders" are jealous of his great looking yard! They need to get hip, and go green with the world. Maybe AL Gore should pay a visit and explain how he is helping our world!

    Seriously, the HOA needs to let this go!

  • loudnoises Aug 21, 2008

    "I built a three bedroom log house-house not a cabin. Five years later the HOA tried to changed the covenants to prohibit log houses"

    That's pretty funny as I find log homes very aestetically pleasing. Give a "natural" look to the environment, not some "cookie cutter design". It's also amusing given that HOAs supporters main claim is "to maintain property values", probably not knowing just how valuable log homes can be.

    I absolutely loathe HOAs. People so willing to vote in ANOTHER level of government over themselves. I get the whole "value" thing, and I don't really want to live next to a dumpy neighbor either, but that supposed "value" is only when you sell. And if I choose to by from some other guy down the road when you're trying to sell, well, that "value" is zero to me.

  • NCTeacher Aug 21, 2008

    This is precisely why I refuse to live in a neigbborhood with an HOA. Whoever pays the mortgage payment gets to decide what can and can't go in the yard.

  • Tax Man Aug 21, 2008

    If he met the requirement of getting the signatures then the HOA loses - all of the neighbors need to get a good lawyer and sue the HOA members PERSONALLY and remove them. Let these neighbors be the new HOA and they can amend the covenants to allow alternatives to fescue. HOA's are like Unions - they never have any legitimate use and just are manned by power and money grubbing fools. They continually screw the people they are supposed to serve. Pathetic.

  • dws Aug 21, 2008

    when it comes time for basic intelligence and common sense to be applied, many HOA's do not have a clue, and this situation is a prime example

  • alx Aug 21, 2008

    It's HIS property, it's HIS money. give the man a break & go after pedophiles & drug dealers

  • Mom of two Aug 21, 2008

    hoa is petty. leave the man and his nice yard alone.

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 21, 2008

    I think this person had a great idea. He saved a lot of money, it looks aesthetically pleasing on all areas that I have seen in person. I think he has found a way for others to consider with the limited rain-fall that we have had over the past two years.

    I vote for him to do his yard like he wants. I bet it looks better than most in the area.