Burton Knight Agrees to Truce with City Hall on Water-Friendly Lawn, Gets to Keep His Cacti

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Burton Knight is declaring a qualified victory in his battle with City Hall over his water-friendly lawn.

"I was able to negotiate keeping the cactuses and not the boulders," Knight said. "I think that I'd rather have the biodiversity and the pleasures that cactuses bring than the rocks, even thought the rocks were an important part of the design."

The Landmark Commission approved the compromise yesterday, a month-and-a-half after requiring Knight to replace his meticulously xeriscaped yard with grass, which they deemed more appropriate to the Junius Heights Historic District.

In the run-up to yesterday's meeting, city staff had endorsed a plan that would remove both the cacti and boulders. Knight thinks it was the pictures he passed around of his lawn in full spring flower that ultimately convinced commissioners to give his succulents a reprieve. The fact that his cacti are native to North Texas and were there centuries before his neighbor's Bermuda doesn't seem to have factored into the decision.

Knight would have preferred to keep the boulders as well, which have "communities of moss and lichen on them and are really beautiful, and the plants around them really thrive." But it quickly became clear that the rocks were a nonstarter with several members of the commission. So, Knight relented.

"I could have taken it further but I think the emotional cost and the risk would have just thrown me back into the same position of worry and uncertainty that I've been in... I think closure had the higher value (than) continuing to fight," he says.

In addition to removing the boulders, Knight will have to add water-friendly buffalo grass and lower the yard's edging, both of which he says he can live with. Now he's hoping the city will allow him to wait until the plants are dormant to make the changes. That comes in January or so.


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22 comments
Americano
Americano

Good thing the city toed the line on the rocks.  Who knows what kind of mischief they could cause?

getreal
getreal

When these deed restrictions were mandated, we weren't living with water shortages and low aquifers.  While I understand the importance of historic preservation when it comes to structures, the history of the front yard is short. http://www.american-lawns.com/history/history_lawn.html

Meanwhile, no one is batting at eye that Trammel Crow is tearing down a lovely old building on Ross Avenue, that has great lines, so he can build apartments. Why couldn't the funeral home be the center of his development and used as a club house for the apartments, they could rent to the general public?  Or a restaurant?  Nick and Sam's is in an old funeral home.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Good Grief!  In Brooklyn we'd give our first-born kitten to have a tiny cactus garden, rocks and all.

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

i called the city's 311 line 2 weeks ago about the mountains of garbage dumped on the side of the street. this pile of shit is a few hundred feet from a school. the city moron who took my call admitted she doesn't live in dallas. when i suggested she didn't care, she said 'how dare you say that". the mountain of garbage is still there. i guess they're too busy ruinin' a nice yard to pick up trash from the streets. 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Someone should scope out the homes of all the bureaucrats associated with this ridiculousness and report all the violations.

But they probably don't live in Dallas anyway.

markzero
markzero

@Americano I've heard of people trying to keep them as pets, but that's ludicrous; you can't tame a boulder.

observist
observist topcommenter

@Montemalone  I kind of defended him before, but I took a closer look over the weekend and it does look a zoo tortoise habitat has been plopped down in the middle of the block.  It's a historic district with certain aesthetic constraints voted in by the residents of the district.   If the historic overlay isn't enforced, then it has no purpose whatsoever.  (Republican-types insert snide comment here).  I really do appreciate all the work he put into his yard, but at the same time it's a very attention-seeking sort of non-conformity.  He got the attention he was seeking, which is always a risk.

getreal
getreal

@observist I'm not a Republican, I'm a realist. Who in their right mind believes watering Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses, which are not native to Dallas' heat, is best for the environment, over cactus, which is native and takes fewer resources?  

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@observist I agree with everything you wrote, but the historic district would be well served to revise the provisions regarding landscaping.  The one sentence was pretty vague.  And the "well it's not blackland prairie argument" only goes so far when you think about the 6 lanes of asphalt not being blackland prairie either and whether and to what amounts you can variances for flowers, etc. 

rzimmerman1
rzimmerman1

@getreal @observist I live a few blocks away in another conservation district. My yard is part Bermuda and part St. Augustine. I rarely ever water it. It looks fine except maybe towards the end of August, but that's the time of year that I typically lose my will to live too. My lawn has been established for over 80 years. I agree that daily watering from an automatic sprinkler system is a total waste, but that's not necessary to maintain a green lawn.

observist
observist topcommenter

@getreal @observist  There's a middle ground between wasting water maintaining a neon green lawn and having a rock-lined Chihuahuan desert-scape.  My yard is St. Augustine and I've never watered it.  It took a hit in the heat/drought 2 years ago, it's not super-green, but it looks alright.  There are plenty of green plants that thrive in Dallas with no additional water.

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