Lawsuit against an HOA: Forcing Landowner To Mow Meadow

Lawsuit against an HOA: Forcing Landowner To Mow Meadow

A Purcellville couple and homeowners association are preparing to battle it out in court over whether a meadow should be mowed.

In 2014, the association overseeing the Farmington on the Green development asked Michael and Sian Pugh to mow down a two-acre meadow that had existed since the home was built in 1989. The meadow on the 5.6-acre property – which is shielded from public view by trees – contains wildflowers, Monarch butterflies and other beneficial insects that make it worth preserving, said Pugh, who bought the property in 2005. The rest of the 3.6 acres is well manicured, he said.

“Like the two owners before me, I have [the meadow] bush hogged on occasion to keep the woody growth down,” Pugh said. “We get deer, foxes, rabbits, hawks and all kinds of butterflies, including Monarchs… It is an awesome and beautiful feature of the property.”

After being told to mow the meadow, the Pughs attended meetings and stated their views on wanting to retain the two-acre parcel’s wild features. The association refused to rescind the violation, while not putting a lien on the property.

But leaders told the Pughs that if they sold the property, the meadow had to be mowed before they would approve the sale, he said.

“They apparently want the lot to conform and be like the other lots in the development,” said Pugh, who has numerous neighbors who support his position. Legal representatives of the homeowners association could not be reached for comment.

In 2015, a representative from the Audubon Society reviewed the property and wrote in a report that the meadow provided “a number of benefits to the local community.” Those included the deeper root systems of native grasses and pollinator plants helping to build topsoil and prevent flooding and erosion. The native plants also nurtured “beneficially insects, such as bees and butterflies, which are important for pollinating local crops, and home flower and vegetable gardens,” the report said.

In addition, the meadow shelters native wildlife such as reptiles, birds and mammals that “enriches the lives of the people in the community as well as the wildlife themselves,” the Audubon Society representative wrote. “Hopefully an agreement will be reached that will allow this property to be certified as an Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary. If it continues to be maintained as a meadow with mowing in the spring or late winter the property will be certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary.”

In late 2014, the Pughs filed a lawsuit in Loudoun County Circuit Court. In pre-trial negotiations, settlement offers have required the meadow to be destroyed, which is unacceptable to the Pughs. The case is slated to go to trial on Dec. 14.

“I believe we have a strong legal case,” Pugh said. “My legal counsel tells me that this is a clear and outrageous violation of my property rights and that none of the Covenants for Farmington on the Green give them the authority to do this.”

He estimated that they will have spent $50,000 to $60,000 by the time the case concludes. “All of that is at risk, but we hope to get a lot of it back if we win the case,” Pugh said. “My wife and I have decided this is important enough to put the money at risk.”