Pesticide battle pits homeowners in Lafayette against HOA

Some homeowners say pets are being poisoned

DENVER -- The lawns in Lafayette’s Lilac Hill neighborhood may be covered with fallen leaves but they are still lush and green.

The HOA wants to make sure the grass stays weed-free and in tip-top shape. To accomplish that, they use fertilizers and chemicals to maintain health and to control weeds and insects.

But some homeowners say those chemicals are sickening their pets.

Matthew Parizek said his 7-year old Pug mix, Suzie, got sick about a year ago.

“She wasn’t keeping water or food down,” he said, “so I took her to the vet.”

Parizek said tests show that Suzie had pesticide poisoning.

The same thing happened to Suzannah Long’s 11-year old Terrier, Ozzie.

“I came home and he couldn’t even walk toward me,” she said. “He was very ill.”

She said vets at CSU determined that Ozzie was suffering from environmental toxic poisoning.

So she went to the HOA and asked to opt out of the pesticide program.

“It’s not like I want to paint my house pink or have pink flamingos in my front yard,” she said. “I just want a safe place to live.”

But the HOA wouldn’t let her opt out.

HOA President Brad Wiesley told Denver7 that Lilac Hill is a covenant-controlled development.

“We’re a small neighborhood with fewer than 40 homes,” he said. “One of the covenants requires the HOA to maintain the attractive nature of the neighborhood.”

He said the turf is a big part of that.

He said using pesticides and herbicides is “standard business practice.”

Wiesley said the HOA has updated its policy to notify residents prior to the application of pesticides, but Long said that’s not enough.

“It doesn’t seem fair that people can opt out of having bushes trimmed or trees trimmed but I can’t opt out of having toxic chemicals put in my yard,” she said.

Long added that she’s not talking about a “common area,” she talking about her own front yard, that she owns and pays taxes on.

“I certainly don’t want to have a legal battle,” she said, “yet I want to have a safe place for my dog and me to live.”

Parizek said the HOA should consider other options, like switching to organic pesticides.

“I’ll buy my own organic pesticide… to get rid of dandelions,” he said.  “I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket.”

The frustrated homeowner said the HOA isn’t listening.

“They won’t even return an email,” he said.

Long told Denver7 that she attended an HOA Board meeting earlier this week and tried to explain her position to one of the new board members.

She was flabbergasted by the reply.

“She basically said, ‘Well, you now what? Maybe you just don’t fit in here and should just move,’” Long said. “I just sat there and thought, ‘Oh my God. I’ve lived here for 17 years. That’s just so wrong.”

Long’s neighbor, Dawn Jensen, said she believes it’s their right, as homeowners, to refuse the pesticide service.

“Unlike townhouse or condo associations, we individually own our property and are responsible for all taxes,” she said. “Therefore, because of health issues, I should be able to opt out of this service.”

Jensen said there are other property owners who feel the same way, but don’t want to speak out publicly because the HOA president is also on the City Council in Lafayette.

She said the City of Lafayette passed a resolution in September of 2015 to prohibit bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on city property.  She added that HOAs should follow that example and be more receptive to the health concerns of homeowners.

Wiesley said the majority of homeowners want their turf and landscaping protected from weeds and insects.

He said contractors are expected to follow all state laws regarding the application of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals, including posting notices indicating the use of chemicals.

But Jensen points out that the HOA’s own weed and pesticide management guidelines state that the enforcement of any and all state law requirements is the responsibility of the State of Colorado and not the HOA.

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