Austin resident says 'notice of violation' over front yard plants is unfair, contradictory

Weeds or wildflowers? A resident in Northeast Austin believes she received a notice of violation unfairly by the Austin Code Department due to a misunderstanding over her front yard plants. 

According to city code, weeds and grass on private properties can’t be more than 12 inches high, and many of Maigret Pinshaw’s plants are over a foot tall. However, she said her front yard is home to wildflowers and native plants, not weeds.

On June 12, FOX 7 visited Pinshaw just as a representative from the Austin Code Dept. was leaving. Pinshaw had been showing them around and providing names for the various plants. She did the same for FOX 7, pointing out different varieties of wildflowers and native plants. 

"The native plants help with water filtration, which is really important in this neighborhood," said Pinshaw, who lives at the bottom of a hill. 

Pinshaw also pointed out that online the city details a "wildflower meadow" policy.

"I had found on the city website that it says you need to let the wildflowers go through all their flowering cycles and wait for the seed heads to mature before you cut," said Pinshaw. "It’s vitally important that the plants be allowed to naturally drop their seeds."

In contrast to Pinshaw’s dilemma, firefighters at AFD Station #51 told FOX 7 they want to cut plants that have overrun the property, however, they aren’t allowed to. FOX 7 reached out to the City of Austin to get more information. 


While regulations for city-owned properties are different from private properties, Pinshaw still sees the standards as contradictory.

"If it’s a native plant, there is something native to this state that likes those blooms, that likes those seeds," she said, as she waits for the code department to get back to her about the status of her case. "Let nature do what it wants to do."

City code also states that "it is an affirmative defense to a violation" if the weeds or grasses on a property don’t "reduce or impair visibility" and if they fall into a few categories including "a landscaped area arranged and managed consistent with a plan accepted by the City which area includes native or adapted vegetation, where weed control and other periodic maintenance occurs." 

FOX 7 received the following statement from a spokesperson for the Development Services Department Code Division:

"The Development Services Department Code Division is working in partnership with the property owner to achieve voluntary compliance, including exploring other city programs and resources that may align with her goal of protecting the wildflower habitat on her property. 

To date, Code has not issued a citation for tall grass and weeds. Instead, the inspectors confirmed that the property did not meet Austin City Code Section 10-5-2 standards (duty to maintain property in sanitary condition) and issued a notice of violation. (

The Code Division encourages anyone who receives a notice of violation to contact the listed inspector to talk through the matter and develop a plan to address the outstanding issue(s)."

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