For more than four years, the Farmington on the Green Homeowners Association in Purcellville has been trying to get resident Mike Pugh to mow his grass. Now the dispute is headed for Circuit Court where a judge will be asked to weigh in.
Pugh has created a two-acre meadow filled with an array of native plants and wildlife in the back section of his 5.6-acre.
The HOA made it clear that if Pugh wanted to sell his home, he would be required to mow the meadow before it approves the transfer. Pugh, however, said that turning the meadow into a lawn would destroy the habitat that shelters deer, foxes, hawks and monarch butterflies. Pugh filed a lawsuit against the HOA in 2014 to preserve the meadow. The case is set for trial in Loudoun Circuit Court on Aug. 1.
“We’re very, very confident of our legal case,” he said.
Pugh’s attorney, Randolph Frostick, said that the HOA’s order to mow is a violation of his property rights and that none of the property’s covenants give the HOA the authority to make such demands.
According to the Exterior Maintenance covenant, “each owner shall keep each lot owned by him … in good order and repair and free of debris, including but not limited to … the mowing of all lawns, the pruning and cutting of all trees and shrubbery.”
In 2015, a representativefrom the National Audubon Society determined that Pugh’s meadow’s soil was untouched when 3.6 acres was turned into a lawn when the house was built in 1989. Pugh cited that finding to support his claim that the area is not part of his lawn. He believes that the meadow’s soil has been undisturbed since the land was part of a dairy farm in the 18th century.
“[The developer] didn’t touch the meadow,” he said. “The meadow is not a lawn, never has been.”
Pugh said that while the HOA has declined to fine himor put a lien on his property, dozens of pre-trial negotiations have ended with the same response—the meadow needs to be mowed.
Pugh said he has spent more than $65,000 in legal fees in the case. “I have spent a fortune in legal fees trying to reach a settlement with these people,” he said. “We’ve tried all kinds of things to settle.”
HOA representatives declined to discuss the lawsuit.
According to its 2016 motion to have the case dismissed, the HOA “did negotiate in good faith with [Pugh] in an effort to resolve the dispute.” The HOA also denied that the property had a “so-called meadow” or that Pugh was even aware of the meadow’s existence when he purchased the property in 2005.
Pugh argues that his meadow, which also is recognized by the University of Kansas’ Monarch Watch program as an official Monarch waystation, is largely hidden from public view by a line of trees, the contour of the land and his house. “If you come and look at this property, the meadow is really a key part of it,” he said. “There’s just a whole ecosystem that supports it.”
Pugh said he now has “lots of work” to do as he prepares for his trial next Wednesday. He is confident the court will rule in his favor and order the HOA to back down and reimburse his legal expenses. If the ruling goes the other way, Pugh said that he would need to reevaluate the situation.
“We would have to see what the judgment is,” he said. “If it were to go against us, then we’ll assess it at that time.”