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Rivendell HOA may restore its native plants

By Eric Ernst

The pitch for government money sounded so convincing. It always does.

The Rivendell Homeowners Association promised the moon when it applied for a $10,955 grant from Sarasota County to landscape its 200 acres of wetlands and ponds with native plants instead of grass.

Promoters pledged to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff that drains into South Creek through Oscar Scherer State Park into Sarasota Bay. They said the project would improve wildlife habitat, create a model lake buffer, educate Rivendell residents and the general public, foster a sense of community pride and reduce the spread of invasive plants.

The HOA received the grant and the plants in 2008. Since then, the association's leadership has changed, its landscape maintenance company has changed, and the plants purchased with the public's money are dead and gone.

On Feb. 28, after a resident complained that the native flowers, trees and bushes had been removed or allowed to die because the association didn't like their appearance, several county inspectors came out to check.

On May 23, Jane Grogg, who manages the neighborhood grants, hand-delivered a letter to HOA president Curt Kennedy, demanding that Rivendell either return the money or replant with comparable species.

She says it appears Rivendell will opt for the alternative plantings, which the county will oversee.