doesnt allow LEGO chimney

How is everyone doing with the Proactive City Inspections? Found many violations? Sure you did – a lot. Did you complain? Wwwweeeeeeeelllllllllll ………………………………………………………………

Here’s what I think:

After looking at just a few of my photographs you might get the idea that it is very very easy to find places with code violations.

I know!: I can’t drive down any street in Farmers Branch now without finding at least one violation at each and every single home, street, business, or park. But you know what – there’s still that little singsong voice from elementary school: “Tattle tale, tattletale …….. ” and who wants to be the butt of that? Besides that – on a lot of these violations – Who Cares? Really?

Take, for instance, trees, shrubs, plants, ground cover, grass and such in the medians. Imagine you’re driving down one of the major streets, singing along with the radio and admiring the beautiful landscaping. Oooohhhhhh – then your sense of civic duty kicks in, and you start feeling guilty: for, as we all know:

Trees, shrubs and plants are required to have an overhead clearance of seven feet above public sidewalks and pathways and 12 feet of overhead clearance above streets and alleys.

Oh dear – that’s not right. Darn. This is a copy-and-paste from the Report a Code Violation “Hit List”.   Due to the efficient and timely communication in Farmers Branch (remember: our website is a prize-winner), we are all aware of the fact that that distance has been increased from 12 feet  to 14 feet. Besides that, there’s a whole lot more to these requirements. So – once again I’ll have to go to The Code itself. Ah – here it is. Now – go back to the driving scenario above, but think:

<WARNING! – lots of boring details to follow – feel free to skip over the italicized portion and get back to the story – I’ll tell you about the important parts>

Trees, shrubs and plants.  Standards for trees, shrubs and plants are as follows: 

(1)   Trees, shrubs and plants shall not obstruct the access to or from any door or window of any structure which is used, or is required by city codes and ordinances to be used, for ingress and egress.
(2)   Trees, shrubs or plants shall not create a hazard or an obstruction and shall be maintained within the following minimum clearances:
a.   Overhead clearance of public sidewalks and other public pathways, seven feet vertical clearance.
b.   Lateral clearance of public sidewalks and other public pathways, six inches from each edge of sidewalk or pathway.
c.   Overhead clearance of streets, tree limbs and other projections over the street shall be maintained at a minimum of 14 feet vertical clearance above the street pavement.
d.   Lateral clearance of streets, no encroachment over or above the back of the curb or the edge of paving.
e.   Sight clearance at intersections of city streets, unobstructed sight distance of 200 feet.
f.   Sight clearance for signs erected by the city, unobstructed sight distance of 100 feet.
g.   Overhead clearance of public alleys and easements which have been dedicated and improved for vehicular use, tree limbs and other projections shall be maintained at a minimum of 14 feet vertical clearance above the alley pavement.
h.   Lateral clearance along alleys and easements which have been dedicated and improved for vehicular use, trees, shrubs and plants (other than ground cover) shall be maintained a minimum of 18 inches horizontal clearance from the edge of the alley pavement or to the property line which ever dimension is smaller.
(3)   Trees, shrubs or plants that are dead or which are hazardous to persons or property shall be removed. Any tree, shrub or plant that appears to have lost more than 75 percent of its living foliage shall be considered dead.
Weeds, grass and other ground cover.  Standards for weeds and grass are as follows: 
(1)   Weeds, grass and brush shall be maintained at a height not exceeding eight inches.
(2)   All cut weeds, grass, shrubs or brush shall not be kept or allowed to accumulate on any public street, sidewalk or other public way.
(3)   Weeds, grass, shrubs or brush shall not be deposited in any inlet, manhole or storm sewer or sanitary sewer system.
(4)   The unpaved areas of the front yard shall be maintained with a grass, ground cover, or other type of landscaping to such an extent that the soil when wet will not be picked up and spread to sidewalks or adjacent private or public property and is not subject to erosion during rains. The landscaping occupying the unpaved areas of the front yard shall be provided with adequate water to sustain the landscape material, unless landscape watering is prohibited by mandatory water conservation regulations.
(5)   All ground cover, including but not limited to grass, weeds, ivy, and other decorative ground covers, shall be maintained by mowing, trimming, and/or edging so as to be in conformance with subsection (1) of this section and shall be maintained so as not to encroach over the edge of sidewalks, pedestrian ways, driveway, flatwork, curbs, and street pavement. This shall not preclude the use of permeable pavement or permeable flatwork techniques that incorporate ground cover in their design provided the areas are maintained in accordance with this chapter.
I know what you’re thinking: “Darn – get to the point”. Okay, I will. This is a lot of information, and writing complaints for all of this would take forever, because let’s be realistic: you can’t drive on any major public street in Farmers Branch without finding hundreds, if not thousands, of violations – to just these simple landscaping codes. Sheesh – who has time to remember, let alone complain, about all of that?
Okay guys, turn down George Strait and stay with me now: because, if you ignored the warning and read the above italicized portion carefully, you would have found this gem:
.. Standards for trees, shrubs and plants are as follows: …  b. Lateral clearance of public sidewalks and other public pathways, six inches from each edge of sidewalk or pathway… and … d.   Lateral clearance of streets, no encroachment over or above the back of the curb or the edge of paving.
Folks, let’s be honest here – is that really so bad? (I’m talking about the implication of the code, not the abysmal use of punctuation). Do we really want trees, shrubs, and/or plants to be maintained 6 inches away from the edge of the sidewalk – REALLY? Trees – maybe in some cases, but I see many instances where shrubs and plants (especially flowers) go right up to the edge of the sidewalk, or where bushes reach slightly over the curb. And I think it’s really pretty. There – I said it and I mean it.
I tried to imagine what the median, and residential streets, would look like if shrubs and/or plants were trimmed to the stated spec, and I didn’t like it. Now – I can understand if this created a hazard, but, honestly, if someone is going to scratch their car on a bush that is within the median their car is going to be scratched sooner or later anyway – probably when they jump the curb. Come to think of it – the shrub would have prevented an accident, because when the driver got close enough to feel the shrub caressing his car he’d steer his vehicle back on the road where it belonged.
Is there another reason for this clearance? I can’t think that visibility would be an issue, because most shrubs and plants are short enough to see over, and if you’re not high enough to see over them, and you’re in the street, you’re probably in a situation that no amount of shrub trimming is going to alleviate anyway.
I had heard that the reason that plants are not allowed to go over the curb is because the foliage might interfere with proper drainage. Isn’t that a bit ludicrous – especially in Texas? I might understand that logic if every single person in Farmers Branch lined their curb with Asian Jasmine or something, but come on – one or two nicely placed plants spilling out into the street looks lovely. In fact, there’s one on a street close to mine and I’m not going to tell you where it is because I don’t want Code Enforcement to make that homeowner trim it back. It’s pretty. It makes me smile every time I drive by. 
So what’s the big deal? Is Farmers Branch so obsessed with enforcing codes that they lost track of any reasoning ability? Does anybody on the City Council really think butchered landscaping looks good? Do we really need more exposed concrete? In Texas? In the sun?
You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see a bunch of clear, logical thinkers get hold of our codes and go through them, one by one, to determine what really makes sense. Maybe then the citizens could understand and enthusiastically contribute, the Enforcers wouldn’t have to write so many warnings, and the city would look and feel better.
Besides being Proactive, that would:
  • successfully address an important dilemma 
  • have a positive impact and tremendous benefit to the community 
  • be a quantum leap of creativity.
  • be an innovation method for organizational improvement
  • demonstrate tangible effectiveness and results

All the citizens would need is the government’s commitment to and support of bringing the innovation to life.