7.2 Increase support and capacity for homeowners and HOAs to install stormwater improvement projects with free professional consultations and cost-share grants

Chapter 7. Community Partnerships for Stormwater Improvement

Key Message: Free professional consultations, financial assistance, and replicable demonstrations of successful pond management, Florida-adapted landscaping or green infrastructure elements can accelerate implementation of best stormwater practices in neighborhoods. Outreach to HOAs, in particular, can lead to large-scale projects in common areas that leverage grant funds and volunteers.


Approximately 60% of privately-owned developed properties in unincorporated Sarasota County lack stormwater treatment, because these neighborhoods were built before statewide stormwater regulations were adopted. Since government funds typically cannot support projects on private land, financial and technical assistance for homeowners to implement best practices is lacking. This is especially true for green infrastructure projects like large-scale landscape renovations or pervious pavers.

Free professional consultations, cost-share programs, and demonstrations of successful HOA initiated landscaping, pond management, or other best management practices (BMPs) can accelerate implementation of stormwater management on private property. Targeted outreach and assistance to HOAs is particularly effective for implementing larger projects because HOAs maintain large common areas with established budgets that can leverage grant funding and neighborhood volunteers.

Volunteers and staff from Sarasota County, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, VHB, and Orchid Oaks Condominium restored the Phillippi Creek shoreline. Source: Sarasota County Government

Associated benefits include recreational opportunities, habitat enhancement for fish and birds, climate change mitigation, and increased property values and quality of life. Public-private partnerships that reduce nutrient loading to local waterways align with Sarasota County Government’s objective to protect and improve area surface water quality in compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and MS4 permit regulations.


Overall, the resources and technical assistance needed to activate HOA residents to implement long-term nutrient reduction can be costly, confusing, piecemeal, or limited in capacity (see Chapter 7.1). Roughly 25% of all residents in Sarasota County are renters (US Census Bureau 2017); even if incentives were available, many could not utilize them. 

HOAs and neighborhood associations can apply for small grants for nutrient reduction projects through county and municipal governments and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. Many HOAs employ contractors to develop stormwater pond or landscape enhancement proposals because the HOA itself lacks the technical expertise to design a project. Professional consultations are needed to help HOA boards successfully navigate the turnover in management of planned subdivisions, including stormwater ponds and swales, from developer to the HOA. HOAs often do not understand how to maintain stormwater infrastructure before they are responsible for it, and there is no warranty if the infrastructure stops functioning as designed. In recent years, financial and technical assistance for projects has not kept pace with increasing demand.

The Sarasota County Neighborhood Grant Program provides HOAs small grants to make neighborhood improvements. Source: Sarasota County Government

The Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST), a program of Sarasota County Government’s Stormwater Environmental Utility, offers hands-on education, technical consultations, strategic planning, and project support for watershed-friendly practices on both public and HOA/neighborhood association landscapes. Through collaboration with UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, NEST provides education about environmentally friendly practices and engages communities with educational experiences, restoration, and BMP adoption. Citizen-scientist monitoring programs, such as UF/IFAS Extension’s Lake Watch, train residents to monitor water quality in their own neighborhoods. The reach of the NEST program could be improved with increased marketing of available services and funding opportunities and incentives to activate neighborhood leaders.

Coordination between the public and private sector remains vital to helping HOAs move past basic understanding of stormwater issues to implementing viable solutions. Programs that weave together education, technical services, and financial assistance could promote a suite of locally tested and validated BMPs and streamline nutrient management implementation. An example of this type of coordination is Oregon’s Stormwater Solutions Team, with representation from cities and counties, DOT, DEP, Sea Grant, the green building industry, the home builders association, the stormwater treatment private sector, neighborhood and homeowners’ associations, colleges and universities, and a local waterkeeper advocacy group. This collaboration provides coordinated, state support for funding, removal of legislative/legal barriers, monitoring, and training programs for communities.

Currently, property owners interested in implementing water quality improvement projects can receive information from local organizations (see Chapter 7.1) but are on their own for installation because of restrictions on use of public funds to enhance private property. However, reframed as a public-private partnership, installing stormwater management features on private property is in the public interest, especially in older neighborhoods lacking master stormwater treatment systems. The SWFWMD Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) program, a BMP cost-share program for farmers, works in a similar way (see Chapter 4.6). Washington, D.C. recently created a RiverSmart Homes program, funded largely by stormwater utility fees, allowing homeowners to install green infrastructure features such as rain gardens, rain barrels, landscaping, and pervious pavement on their property at a reduced cost. Residents apply and make a co-payment, and the city sends a trained contractor to do the site evaluation and installation. Rebates are also available to homeowners who do their own installation. More than 10,000 homes have participated in RiverSmart as of 2019. Additional funding has been made available for non-profits, schools, and places of worship. RiverSmart also includes a rewards program offering as much as a 55% discount on stormwater fees to property owners who install green infrastructure. Buffalo, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia also have green infrastructure incentive programs. Together, they incorporate economic and community goals to ensure neighborhood stormwater investments provide multiple benefits of flood control, improved water quality, green jobs, and increase property values, while enhancing neighborhood livability and well-being.


Currently, the Sarasota County NEST program has a staff of one. Increasing staff size and budget would expand the reach of current educational, consultation, and implementation efforts. Additional funding could also support expansion of citizen-science monitoring programs like Lake Watch, establish a cost-share program like Washington, D.C.’s RiverSmart, and offer grants to neighborhood associations to help finance community-driven stormwater improvement. Priority should be given to coastal areas draining into impaired water bodies that lack stormwater treatment. Sarasota County’s Stormwater Environmental Utility has proposed a homeowner cost-share program administered by NEST to retrofit driveways with pervious pavers as a pilot project, with rebates funded by stormwater utility fees. 

Expanded partnerships could support “one-stop shops” that help design, finance/fund, and install BMPs. These shops could operate as mobile stations or easily accessible central locations like the Florida House Institute or community centers. Staff from the NEST program, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, SBEP, UF/IFAS Master Gardeners, permitting experts, and other consultants could assist residents on all aspects of a project. This approach could lower barriers of entry and build momentum for initiating projects.

The NEST program could launch a service to help HOAs in new subdivisions identify and anticipate needs during the transition from developer to HOA. For example, NEST could facilitate walk-throughs with responsible parties before and during the transition. Publicizing HOA successes could further promote green infrastructure.



Implementation and Planning – Sarasota County, SBEP, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, and various stormwater pond and environmental consulting businesses

Performance Measure

  • Increased funding for incentive/technical assistance programs
  • Increased funding for NEST Program
  • Number of individual private properties with green infrastructure improvements
  • Number of HOAs installing green infrastructure features

Experts or Leads

Don Rainey, UF/IFAS; Mollie Holland, NEST; Abbey Tyrna UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County; Darcy Young, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program; Laura Ammeson, Sarasota County Air and Water Quality Dept.; Lee Hayes Byron and Sara Kane, Sarasota County Sustainability Department; Russ Hoffman, Beautiful Ponds; Sean Patton, Stocking Savvy; Steve Suau, Progressive Water Resources

Cost Estimate

$100,000-$1,000,000 Technical Assistance Program Expansion

$1,000,000+ Cost-share and Incentives

Related Activities

Chapter 4.6, Chapter 7.1



Other Stormwater Partnership Activities