Fifth Ward neighbors say community garden is now nuisance property

Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Fifth Ward neighbors say community garden is now nuisance property
From the rotting pumpkins, to the overgrown lot, and chicken waste, neighbors say a rodent and flea problem exploded.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Neighbors in Houston's Fifth Ward said a community garden has become a nuisance property.

"This is a community garden that was put in here by the ex-city councilman Jerry Davis," resident Rodney Thomas said.

Thomas lives directly next door to the fenced-in lot on Leffingwell Street and said he has only seen a single community event, a pumpkin patch.

"When they had that event, that's when they left all the pumpkins that they got from H-E-B in there. That's when the rodent problem started," Thomas said.

And across the street, neighbor Angel Farias is also fed up.

"Since I've lived here, this property has been a nuisance," Farias said.

Both neighbors said the property has been in stages of abandonment and neglect for two years, drawing rats and a flea infestation.

"I mean, just the amount of flies coming off this property was bad," Farias said.

The property is owned by the Houston Land Bank, an organization separate from the City of Houston that works in conjunction with the city, county, and school district to improve neighborhoods.

According to the current city council member for District B, the Houston Land Bank has an agreement with Jerry Davis as the garden administrator.

But neighbors said the fenced-up lot has become a personal dumping ground for Davis.

"This man had over 100 chickens here at one point," Farias said.

"He stored cattle manure," Thomas said.

The neighbors said the rodent and flea problem exploded from the rotting pumpkins to the overgrown lot and chicken waste.

Rodney said pest control services have already charged him upwards of $2,000, and they're quoting even higher prices to continue treating his yard.

"The pest control gentleman said the only place they've seen something like this is at a livestock place," Rodney said.

Davis told ABC13 over the phone that he began the garden in 2020 to grow food for seniors and partner with the local elementary school.

But the educational partnership was not continued this year.

He said he last handed out tomatoes and okra in August and plans to turn over the raised garden beds this fall.

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Davis admits he was cited by BARC Animal Control for the chickens, to which he said he moved them out of the garden.

He has no pictures of the work he said he's done, but neighbors have plenty, including what the garden looked like until recently, a massive overgrown lot.

Eyewitness News asked the Houston Land Bank for answers. It said the garden is on its radar and is working to rectify it.

In the meantime, these neighbors said the City of Houston has been involved in the mowing and upkeep, even improving the property's drainage.

"There's a school at the end of the street. There's kids that walk down here. And when I've inquired about sidewalks, 'Oh, that's just not in our plans,' but you can fund stuff like this?" Farias said.

We reached out to the Mayor's office to ask about the property's history with the city, but we have not heard back.

Harris County Public Health offers a way for you to report a public nuisance through a mobile app. You can submit the problem area through this website.

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