About that citation for "excessive"
vegetation: The inspector didn't show
up at the hearing, so the hearing officer
declared it dismissed for lack of
prosecution. Kind of a letdown, actually.
My neighbor across the street told me she
had seen somebody photographing my furry
front yard, (
and I assume it was the inspector. Maybe
they studied their prints and realized
that it formed the right backdrop, after
all, for the fake wooden mushrooms I had
"planted" earlier this year
Ah, but there is. There's a group started here in Wisconsin some 20-30
years ago dedicated to natural landscaping called The Wild Ones. In their
earlier days they fought a lot of battles over their "messy" yards. Check
them out. If there isn't a chapter in your area, you might consider
starting one: http://www.for-wild.org/chapters.html .
I find it hard to tell from the picture. I can't tell if the vegetation is
weeds or a groundcover. Also, there is no context. I see similar yards in
the "old money" section of the city. These lots are planted with
groundcovers like ivy, creeping phlox, vinca, etc. because it is too shady
for grass and the slope is not safe for mowing. That said, they don't look
unkempt with tall weeds growing in them nor are the edges spilling over the
hardscape. I think that the strip near the street looks shaggy. I think it
could be much better, and as a gardener, I would look at is as a lost
opportunity. I guess it depends on how you approach life. Lots of people
think of gardening and landscaping as a necessary evil, sort of like doing
dishes, and would never consider doing more than the absolute minimum. It's
funny though, how when people put their house on the market, they understand
the impact that landscaping has on the home's value.
Just to let your know, LLBean and several other outdoor stores (EMS, REI,
etc) are carrying "Buzz-Off" clothing that is treated with a natural
substance derived from pyrethrins. Lasts through 25 washings and than you
can spray it with the same stuff for 6 more weeks with each spray treatment.
We used this on our vacation up to Vermont and it worked extremely well! I
am bugged by bugs all the time, especially the biting type! Look for this
clothing - this is not an ad, just something to help us poor gardeners who
get bugged all the time!
Me too but it depends where you live. Large adjacent development would
probably arrest him too.
My small neighborhood, compared to one of my next door neighbors, his yard
looks highly manicured.
Me, I like things a little wild, and would be out of place in some of the
big suburban cemeteries like the big development near me.
Where I grew up, a traditional English cottage garden was viewed as being
worse than a car up on blocks. Xeroscaping (although I didn't know anyone
who even knew that term, if it even was invented yet) was also frowned upon.
And don't even think of naturalizing crocus in a lawn. They might as well
have been dandelions.
Many cities have noxious weed ordinances that they use to justify going onto
inner-city vacant lots to mow them. The problem comes when the people who
are enforcing the ordinances have no gardening, horticultural or botany
experience. Anything taller than ankle high better have a flower they
recognize, or have woody stems so they can call it a shrub.
Ornamental grass? To them, Kentucky Bluegrass is the only ornamental grass
allowed, and it better be mowed. Ground cover? You mean Kentucky Bluegrass?
Hollyhocks, lilies and gladiolus, if not in bloom, are far too tall, and
must be weeds.
They'll write the ticket for anything. If the property owner mows it down,
they were right. If the property owner doesn't respond, someone will mow it
down for them. And if the property owner challenges, well, maybe then
they'll send a qualified person out to check. Maybe. Maybe they'll just take
a few pictures, and count on the judge not caring about anything other than
how bad it looks in their poorly taken pictures.
Meanwhile down the street there will be people dumping chemicals on their
lawn in such quantities that they're turning it into a future Superfund site
who are allowed to continue to assault the environment, pollute the soil and
ground water, and poison the neighborhood pets and children. If the only
things they have that are higher than ankle-high are some foundation shrubs
too close to the foundation of the house, they're okay.
On the other hand, I'm not thrilled with landscapes that make walking down
the sidewalk an obstacle course. I don't like vegetation that blocks traffic
signs. And I don't like tall shrubs so close to the corner that I have to
pull out into traffic from the left just to see if there's any traffic from
the right. When it comes down to these safety issues, I don't care if
they're weeds, or expensive specimens.
All that said, I'm not sure I like what's in the picture. There's not enough
context to tell if it looks good. But it doesn't appear to be a safety
problem, and, as far as I can tell, isn't neglected. What must be the most
frustrating about this is they apparently never clearly articulated what
they thought the problem was.
"It violates the ordinance." "How?" "It just does." That's not a very
satisfying exchange. And even though this ticket was dismissed, without
knowing why it was written in the first place, it's not a victory. New
tickets could be on their way, and unless they state how or why, there's no
way to really address the what.
As I recall you were to receive the name of the complainant at least by
the hearing. Have you spoken with the complainant yet and come to an
understanding? Based on your pictures it does look as if many would find
your "landscaping" to be a collection of weeds and your philosophy to be a
rationalization. The sidewalk is a public area which you must maintain, yet
it is also overgrown.
I suspect you will be hearing from the yard police again. It is
disappointing that you did not have your day in court since you are now in
This is the same implication that I expected
the inspector might make at the hearing, so
I was prepared with a clarifying photo:
In any case, government never returned my phone
call to find out who the complainant was, if any.
And because they didn't appear at the hearing,
I'm confident there was no complainant. Whatever
else I may think of the Dept. of Consumer and
Regulatory Affairs -- the D.C. govt. authority in
question, I believe they wouldn't abandon a
real complaint by a real citizen.
In fact, just this morning I think I figured
out the true circumstances of the citation.
Although the mystery has been intriguing to
me, it may be boring for some readers -- they
may move on to the next thread...
As I said, my neighbor was cited at the same
time. But she got a different form of ticket,
even though it was for the same code violation,
section 800.10, basically for excessive vegetation
over 10 inches tall. The one she got -- let's
call it form A -- gives seven days to correct
the condition or the city will do it itself
and send a bill. There's no option to ask for
a hearing, but there's an obscure paragraph on
the back that says the citizen may appeal the
citation in writing within the seven-day time
limit. Brutal, eh?
The other form of citation -- let's call it B --
is the one I got. It is simply a $100 fine, but
there is a clearly-stated option to request a
We both were cited in the same week. On the preceding
Saturday I had noticed a crew mowing the
dense growth from a small triangular park nearby.
This was in May, after a wet spring. So it
would seem that the city came out for seasonal
cleanup and wrote citations on nearby
property owners who appeared to need one themselves.
In fact I remember trimming my sidewalk strip on
the same weekend I saw the crew out there. Since
I like to wait until the dandelions have gone to
seed (they're wildflowers, you know) before my
first mowing of the season, it's possible that
the grass really was much taller than you see
in the photo.
But why did my neighbor and I get different forms?
And why was mine signed not only by a different
person, but one who was not an inspector, actually,
but the chief of inspectors?
As it happens, last year I got a citation for the
same code violation, but on the form A. The
circumstances of that citation are an even longer
story that -- trust me -- has no bearing on this
one -- except that I spoke to the chief then and
made clear that if the city was going to cite me
I expected to have the opportunity to get a hearing.
So now I think what happened this year is that
the crew wrote form A citations on my neighbor
and me. Then the chief intervened, writing a
new citation for me himself on form B, attempting
to do me a favor -- maybe even dating it
incorrectly to make it fatally flawed. And if he
wasn't on site, this would have come out at
the hearing also.
In the end, this episode seems to be more about
politics than law. Far from being in legal limbo,
I'm confident that the city won't bother me again
for a long time.
email@example.com (Charles Packer)
So, if there was a complainant, you don't know what problems to address
to satisfy him. You seem eager to believe that there is no complainant but
in the absence of a complainant the ticket writer is the complainant. You
need to figure out what is causing these complaints.
I don't understand the point your pictures are intended to make. They
show a poorly maintained side walk/right of way and a retaining wall that is
leaning into the right of way. The vegetation above the retaining wall is
not encroaching into the right of way but still this is not a picture you
want to produce in court. This picture speaks of long term neglect.
Since you've now received multiple tickets you should try to do what is
necessary to prevent a city work crew from trimming your land at your
expense. Perhaps you should get a landscaper in if you don't know what to
I hate to say it, but I agree. This yard looks virtually abandoned from
the street level (picture a3). I much prefer the natural look, but this
does not quite cut it. Natural is not the same as overgrown.
One quick task that will make the property look better it to remove the
weeds at the base of the walls. The vines draped over the wall do
soften the edges, but they are also drawing attention to the base weeds.
These plants are probably contributing to the weakness in the
retaining wall as well by breaking the bricks with their roots.
Next, selective thinning of the vines would be in order to make the
upper parts of the garden look more tamed.
Lastly, changing the vegetation of the devil strip from grass to a low
maintenance, low growing groundcover will leave little maintenance. Or,
get a reel mower and make mowing a 5 minute ritual on the weekends.
I've seen sidewalks narrow, and occasionally curve. But that curve as it
narrows in the middle of a slab, with no difference in the apparent vintage
of the concrete very much looks like it's not the pavement that narrows, but
the vegetation that's overgrowing unevenly. There also appears to be a
plethora of noxious weeds mixed in there, too.
This picture may put the rest into better context, but I'm afraid not in a
favorable light for you. It also highlights the disrepair of the retaining
wall. Lush vegetation, ala cottage garden, is one thing. But this last
picture pretty much clears-up that this isn't lush vegetation, but an
unmaintained and unmanaged yard.
The more you tell us, the more it's looking like you're not just an innocent
victim with an alternative landscape plan, but someone who has let the weeds
take over, and the retaining wall deteriorate. If you're going to bring in
pictures to defend your yard care aesthetics, you could at least have
swept-up the dead leaves, and pulled a few of the more obvious weeds before
taking the pictures!
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