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Orting neighborhood defends watering, green lawns after scrutiny

The Hidden Lakes neighborhood sent letters to residents over letting their grass go too brown, despite the current drought. It made headlines. The HOA, however, says that's not the whole story.

An Orting community came under scrutiny after news broke that its neighborhood association was chiding residents for letting grass go brown during current concerns for the state’s water supply.

But the home owners association at the heart of the issue says that’s not the whole story.

Some Hidden Lakes residents received letters this past week, notifying them that they had let their grass go too brown, KING 5 reports. The community has a green-grass standard. The homeowners association website notes that it “takes great pride in the look and the feel of the community.”

But the City of Orting that supplies the neighborhood with water has asked residents to practice water-saving habits during the current drought conditions.

“There has been a drought declared by the governor and if you look at the rivers, they’re all down,” said Orting Public Works Director Dean Kaelin, who noted that the city hasn’t implemented any water saving tactics just yet.

“We haven’t gone into our step process for conserving water, but we have sent out a ‘please conserve water’ request on their water bill,” he said. “So we want to conserve and have the people conserve without actually telling them they have to.”

So when residents refrained from regularly watering their grass in Hidden Lakes, it came at the chagrin of some neighbors. The offending residents received letters notifying them that they need to keep up the green appearance, KING 5 reported. The news report further noted that the neighborhood’s sprinklers were on while filming, were leaking and spraying water onto the sidewalk, missing the grass.

But now the association is speaking out in defense after it held a meeting of its members Wednesday. It said previous reports were unfair.

“…the video that aired Tuesday evening of the sprinklers running water on the sidewalk to emphasize the waste of water failed to mention that it was reclaimed water from the development’s catch ponds and not city water; even though the film crew and reporter had been given that information prior to shooting the video,” states a letter to association members from Sam Kresge, secretary of the Hidden Lakes Homeowners Association Board.

The meeting also concluded that the brown-grass warning letter is poorly worded.

“The wording of the letter was taken directly from the covenants that are given to every homeowner at the time they purchase their home” Kresge wrote. “However, it was interpreted as very stern and some people were offended,” Kresge writes. “…it was decided that in the future a courtesy letter would be sent before the warning letter…Once the situation was deflated to logical proportions, everyone agreed that the goal of having nice yards was valid and shared by all in attendance, but that the warning letter was too strong and intimidating.”

Kaelin said the concern for Orting’s water supply lies mostly with rainfall. The city gets its water from underground wells &#8212 four wells and three springs. That is unlike the Seattle area, which relies primarily upon reservoirs filled by glacier water from the neighboring mountains.

Orting’s underground water sources are recharged by the rain. So far, the wells have operated at normal levels, but if rain levels remain low, there could be water-saving measures implemented in the months to come.

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