From: Jason Spangler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2002 12:34:35 -0500
Subject: [NPSOT-NPAT] Update on our garden's "mowing needed" violation
notice from Springwoods
Warning -- this is long!
The following is an update on our garden's "mowing needed" violation notice
from Springwoods MUD just outside of Austin (and will be a part of Austin
due to annexation after December 31st).
For background information up to this point, see our web page at http://jasons.wumple.com/Interests/Nature/WeedLaws/Welcome.html
. In summary, Springwoods MUD cited our native plant garden for violating
restrictive covenants on the property and said "Maintenance needed - Mowing".
It has been almost two months since the original violation notice but nothing
has yet been resolved.
In the middle of August we sent a packet of information via certified mail
to the MUD and their contractor, ECO Resources Inc. The package included:
Over the next few weeks several professionals (involved in landscaping,
native plants, and wildlife) and a NPSOT official wrote letters to the MUD
and ECO Resources. In general, the letters said there were no weeds
in the garden, that native plants are good, that the garden was attractive
and beneficial, and that the garden was a good thing overall.
- A letter explaining our garden and why we were not in violation of
the covenant, recent additions we made to the garden, and what we would like
to see done (receive a letter saying we are not in violation)
- Copies of letters from organizations and individuals concerning this
- Benefits of natural landscaping, native plants, not having a lawn,
- A detailed breakdown of the restrictive covenant part by part and
why our garden did not violate each one.
- Example misuses of Weed Laws
- References cited and used when creating the garden, and additional
- A list of organizations that support natural gardening, habitat gardening,
and/or native plants
- Copies of Backyard Wildlife Habitat letters and certificates
- An extensive plant list, organized by family, genus, and species.
- Some Pictures from our garden
- A copy of the original violation notice
- A copy of a Weed Laws article from the John Marshall Law Review, Volume
26, Summer 1993, Number 4
- A copy of the U.S. EPA "A Sourcebook on Natural Landscaping for Public
We contacted the MUD via ECO Resources (since they act as the MUD's agent
in these matters) several times over the next few weeks.
On September 16th the inspector, Robin Sussman, said that we had passed
her inspection, but the matter was now a "larger issue" due to the letters
that the MUD and ECO Resources had received and that the matter was out of
their hands. ECO Resources believed they were waiting to hear back
from the MUD board on their decision, but could not tell me for certain.
On September 23rd ECO Resources put me in touch with the MUD's attorney,
Gregg Krumme of Ambrust and Brown LLP. He said
that the board had not decided yet, but they were going to have Richard Fadal
of Texascapes visit the garden and give his opinion to the MUD. He also
asked me questions about why some native plant gardeners don't like bradford
pears, crape myrtles, and nandina. I don't know if it was a test of
knowledge or curiosity on his part, but it made me nervous.
I asked if Richard would be evaluating the garden based on the restrictive
covenant (cultivated, pruned, and free of trash and unsightly material). Greg
said no, that Richard would be evaluating the garden from a landscaping perspective.
I also asked if Richard would be evaluating anyone else's property and mentioned
uniform enforcement (meaning our garden should not have to meet special criteria
compared to others), and Greg assured me that the district does everything
possible to ensure uniform enforcement.
I also asked when the board would decide if our garden was in violation
or not. He said they might informally decide before the next board
meeting, but that the formal decision would probably occur at the next board
meeting. I asked to speak to the board about the matter, and he said
I could speak during the "Citizen Comments" part of the meeting.
I asked to be present at Richard's visit and Greg said it would be fine,
so I contacted Richard Fadal at Texascapes to coordinate his visit.
We exchanged voice mail, and in his message Richard said he knew of the visit
but not had received a directive from the board yet to do the visit and coordinate
with me. He said he expected to have no issues with our native plant
garden, and that he would contact me to coordinate the visit as soon as the
board gave him the directive.
So we're back to the stressful waiting game, not knowing what will happen
next. We hope the board will rule that the garden is not in violation
at their next board meeting on October. At least we can de-stress by
enjoying the garden in bloom right now: black dalea, liatris, rock rose, pitcher
sage, zexmenia, ruellia, gregg saliva, tropical sage, mejorana, lantana, turk's
cap, mealy blue sage, velvet leaf mallow, frostweed, purple bindweed, fleabane,
Lindheimer senna, two-leaved senna, hedgehog cactus, cenizo, agalinis, trumpet
vine, cross vine, etc.
We've had several observations about this process so far:
Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, etc.
- The standards of evaluation seem to change and/or be incorrect.
The inspector said they originally cited the garden because it seemed "too
tall", yet no height standards are in the restrictive covenants.
- Involvement from others seem to make officials nervous. It seems
strange that our garden was found not in violation at the second inspection,
but somehow the supporting letters made the matter a "larger issue".
- We feel continually passed off from one person to another during this
process. It feels like no one person is accountable or responsible during
this process except us, the property owners. No one seems to know the
whole process involved.
- Know your rights, especially the Property section of the Texas Statutes:
, and Chapter 209, Texas Residential Property Owners Protection Act: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/py/py0020900toc.html
Fox example: § 209.006 says that the violation notice must inform the
property owner that they may request a hearing under Section 209.007 on or
before the 30th day after the date the owner receives the notice. §
209.007 says that if the owner is entitled to an opportunity to cure the violation,
they can submit a written request for a hearing to discuss and verify facts
and resolve the matter. We repeatedly requested a face to face meeting
to discuss the matter but were continually told that it was not part of the
process and not how they did things.
We also highly recommend anyone living in an area with a property owner's
association to know the rules applying to their property and take advantage
of § 207.003. It says that the association must provide a current
copy of the restrictions applying to the subdivision for a reasonable cost
within 10 days of receiving written notice.
We'll post another update when something significant occurs. Thanks
again everyone for your encouragement and words of advice regarding this matter.