To: NPSOT-NPAT@yahoogroups.com
From: Jason Spangler <jasons@wumple.com>
Date: Fri, 09 Aug 2002 09:12:04 -0500
Subject: [NPSOT-NPAT] Help, they want to mow down our native plant garden!

Help, they want to mow down our native plant garden in 30 days!

Lisa and I live in Springwoods Municipal Utility District less than a mile outside the City of Austin.  On December 31st of 2002, we will be annexed into the City of Austin.

Here is a web page with some pictures and a plant list of our garden: http://garden.wumple.com/

Does anyone have any advice?  Has anyone dealt with a similar situation before?  If we can not resolve this with the MUD, we will hire a lawyer and fight it legally (and probably have to get a restraining order to keep them from mowing our garden while we fight it).  Does anyone know of a laywer in the Austin area that has dealt with similar situations?

We recently received the following letter from the MUD:

"Upon inspection of the District, we photographed the following violation: Maintenance - Mowing Needed."

The first sentence of the following item was highlighted.

"3.08 Maintenance: Each Owner shall keep all shrubs, trees, grass, and plantings of every kind on
such Owner's Lot cultivated, pruned, free of trash, and other unsightly material.  All improvements upon any Lot shall at all times be kept in good condition and repair and adequately painted or otherwise maintained by the Owner of such Lot.  Declarant and the Architectural Committee shall have the right at any reasonable time to enter upon any Lot to replace, maintain, and cultivate shrubs. trees, grass, or other plantings as deemed necessary; to paint, repair, or otherwise maintain any improvements in need thereof."

They inspected on 7/30, when little was blooming but everything was green and healthy.  Perhaps they did not recognize the garden as a garden?  I must admit it looks nothing like the half dead, overwatered, pesticide and fertilizer laden St. Augustine lawns down the street.

I am not a lawyer, but I think I see several problems with the notice.  First, mowing is not mentioned in the rule.  Second, the garden meets the definition of the rule:

Cultivated: We planted the plants.  We care for the plants.  We cultivated the plants.  The garden meets the definition of cultivated at http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=cultivated

Pruned: We prune the plants regularly.  We can supply a list of plants pruned in the last month to prove it.  The garden meets the definition of pruned at http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=pruned

Free of trash:  We pick up our neighbor's trash that blows into the garden every week.  We keep no trash in the garden.

Other unsightly material:  This is completely subjective.  The front "yard" is all garden with no trash heaps or anything like that.  We personally think the half dead, overwatered St. Augustine and invasive Nandina down the street are unsightly.    Unsightly is defined at http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=unsightly

Our plan is to add some more rocks and hardscape to make the garden more apparent.  The additional hardscape may add enough structure to eliminate confusion.

We also plan on adding signage to the plants near the sidewalk, and moving our Texas Parks and Wildlife and NWF backyard wildlife habitat signs to the front of the garden.

We will also prepare a folder of information for the MUD about gardens, native plants, legal precedents, environmental advantages of gardens and native plants over lawns, pictures of the garden in bloom, and any other information supporting our position.

After doing the above, we are planning on inviting the MUD inspector to the garden, giving them a tour, presenting the folder, and explaining why we do not violate the above rule.

If the inspector does not rescind the notice, then we will ask for an extension in writing and present our case to the MUD Board of Directors during the next meeting (which is after the 30 days).  If they do not rescind the notice then we'll have to find a lawyer.

Lisa and I could not bear to loose our native plants and the associated wildlife.  We are determined to fight this and prevent them from mowing our garden.

Please email me any advice or similar experiences you may have.  Thanks!