SW Houston woman wages legal battle with city over garden

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Margaret Mitchell loves her yard nestled in Section 5 of Houston's Westbury neighborhood. Where other neighbors may have a flat, green front lawn, hers is filled with vegetation. There are trees, flower plants and vegetables.

Every bit of land is covered, and that's the problem.

"I'm an environmentalist," the one-time horticulturist said. "I don't post on social websites, I don't go to meetings, what I do is I celebrate the beauty of our environment."

Mitchell was shocked in March when someone in the neighborhood apparently called 311 and complained to the City of Houston about her yard. An inspector came out and promptly gave Mitchell's yard a yellow tag. The city effectively told her she had to trim back plants to no taller than nine inches and also remove the weeds.

"There's not a single weed in my yard," fumed Mitchell, who said she cultivated every plant.

Mitchell said she tried to compromise with the city, but finally decided to file a lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent city workers from trimming her yard. Wednesday, the judge denied her TRO request, meaning the city could technically send workers to trim her yard.

However, City Attorney Ron Lewis wasn't eager to comment.

"We have a pending lawsuit. The matter's being handled in court, let's see how this goes," he said.

Neighbors have watched it all with mild curiosity.

"It's different than all the other houses in the neighborhood, but I don't want to call her out on it," said Nick Lavigne.

Several other neighbors also expressed unease about the abundance of large plants, but didn't want to speak on the record about their neighbor.

Mitchell said neither she nor her plants are going anywhere. The Department of Neighborhoods did not comment on the situation despite several phone calls from Eyewitness News. There is no indication that the city will mow down the yard at any moment.

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