Brrrr – it’s cold outside, but I can see my daffodils starting to poke up out of the ground. As I was surveying my lovely estate in the heart of the City in the Park I noticed the signs of spring coming. And that got me to thinking about summer. And the heat. And how it would be so nice to have a shady spot to relax. Maybe even a spot with a mosquito net, because I sure don’t want to repeat last year’s misery. Since The City has discontinued mosquito spraying it was darned-near impossible to go outside at dusk last year.

Anyway – that’s another story. So, here I was, thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to have a screen house, or gazebo, in my yard. Something pretty and shady. Maybe with a hammock or nice chair and table, and maybe even a fan. Somewhere I could relax outside, but be protected from that hot, hot Texas sun and those disease-carrying insects.

I started to research gazebos and screen houses. Now, I’m a do-it-yourselfer: I hear that there are a few of those living in Farmer’s Branch, even though they have to be low-key, because that is sooooo, well, manual-labor, if you know what I mean. I saw a lot of really neat and awesome plans for building a gazebo or screen house from scratch, and there were also many nice kits on the market for those who are not so handy, or want to get the structure up quickly, but still look nice. Look – here’s is just a small sample of what I found:

 There were so many more, but you get the idea. Do you see anything you like here? I did, and  I was excited about the prospect of having a nice cool shady spot, protected from the bugs.

Uh Ohhhh – wait – I live in Farmers Branch. Darn. None of these structures are legal in Farmers Branch, for we are The City in the Park, and we care about how things look. Here – for those of you who are not aware, I’ll explain how the City Council keeps Farmers Branch beautiful and upscale and vibrant and desirable and free from blight:

Last night I attended a Farmers Branch City Council meeting. According to the agenda, a citizen wanted to bring up some Code Enforcement and other issues of concern and I wanted to meet her and to offer support if I could. Wouldn’t you know – she had purchased and installed – A GAZEBO – in her back yard. She showed pictures; it was a nice pretty new kit gazebo, with canvas top and sides and optional netting. Very pretty and nice and new and awesome.

Code Enforcement didn’t like it. They cited her for disobeying The Code by installing a canvas-topped structure. In her back yard. Can they do that? Oh yes they can. They weren’t sure how, so the City Council asked Jim Olk, the Director of Code Compliance, to explain to the poor lawbreaking citizen how her gazebo violated the citizen’s Health Safety and Welfare. So Mr. Olk, (who I affectionately call the “JOlkster”), got up and explained while the City Council beamed benevolently from their thrones.

Note:  If you are not sure what a canvas-topped structure is, here’s an example:

I can’t possibly quote directly, but I will tell you what I got out of the explanation. Please try to follow as best you can:

“A gazebo is an accessory structure and according to our code it is canvas and The City Council decreed back in 1998 that all accessory structures have to be similar to the primary structure sort of so that for instance if your house is, say 50% brick you must have 50% brick on your accessory structure because otherwise it would look like it didn’t belong to the original structure and that would not be pretty and architecturally compatible and anyway it’s covered in canvas and we don’t like anything that we call permeable material because it might deteriorate and then the already overworked Code Enforcement Officers would be further overworked by having to keep watching  this structure so that we would be ready to cite the homeowner when it starts to deteriorate and then we wouldn’t have time to do anything else because if she had a potentially deteriorating structure in her back yard then other homeowners would think they could do the same thing and then Code Enforcement would have to watch them all and then what if a high wind came along and blew the gazebo into the neighbor’s yard because in my experience when people have these things they don’t anchor them well enough and they can blow around and then Code Enforcement would have to chase them around and then who would they cite  the person who owned the gazebo or the neighbor who now has it on their property and besides that accessory structures are limited to less than 120 square feet so if her structure is say 12X12 it is too big I suppose that if it were 10X10 it would be allowable but then we do allow clothes lines on property so if she takes the canvas covering off the frame she could call it a clothesline of course that wouldn’t shade her from the sun but it would be allowable.”

Whew! I know I missed some points, but I was writing as fast as I could and still couldn’t get it all. I knew that if I tried to think about what he was saying I would get all mired down in logic and silly stuff like that, so I tried not to think about what I was writing, but, well ………………. darn. But I hope I got the major points. All I can say is that there were policemen present and that gazebo owner was lucky they didn’t arrest her on the spot.

And don’t even think about this:

Now, I know what you’re thinking “Yikes – this is all so confusing. I want to be a conscientious citizen of The City in the Park, but when I finally found where The Code was hidden and tried to read it I couldn’t figure out what to do.  I do not want to contribute to urban decay, increased crime, illegal activities, blight, lowered property values, loose morals, excessive yard decoration, unhappy golfers, unemployment, bank foreclosures, alcoholism, drug addiction, the threat of terrorism, disease, empty pots,  ugly paint, poor schools, bad streets, filth, rats rodents and other vermin, non-permitted outside storage, architectural nonconformity, political unrest, social upheaval, dead plants, trees hanging over the street or sidewalk, grass in the cracks, among many many other things.Please help me to be ProActive.”

Okay – I will try my best. In the meantime, just think that if you have to ask, the answer is”NO”. That will hold us until we can work together to figure out what it is that we have to do.