City Ordinances and HOA rules

I know all of us are here out of shared appreciation of nature and some of us have gardens as part of our connection with nature. I received a code violation letter 3 or 4 years ago in Albuquerque and ever since I have made sure to know every plant growing on my property and keep the front yard free of any noxious weeds. At the same time, I have expanded and improved my wildlife habitat and used iNaturalist to track the many visitors.

I came back from camping out of town to a new violation letter that says I have until this Friday to resolve the complaint or face criminal proceedings. Naturally, I complained to some friends and family and went out to check for moths.

I have the rest of the week to “clean up” my yard and/or decide how to fight back. What advice would you give me? What situations have you experienced, encountered, or read in the local news?


The most effective solution is generally to join the HOA board yourself, and try to get some like-minded folks to do the same. It’s usually filled with petty busybodies because they’re the only ones who make an effort to get on it.

I’ve heard enough HOA horror stories to have a firm resolution never to live in a property that has one. Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do to fight them unless you have a LOT of money to spend on lawyer fees.


No HOA here, but I included it in the title because I heard and read similar horror stories. My best bet is to politely point out my native plants to the city inspector (and habitat signs from NWF, Audubon, Xerces, and local ABQ Backyard Refuge Program). Still, I want to have some back up plans in case that doesn’t work.


Ah, I missed that part.
What city department has issued the warning? City government can be easier, because you can sometimes make departments fight each other. Go to whoever handles the environmental stuff / water conservation and ask them for advice. Also, contact any high-ranking officials you can (city council, mayor if you can) and tell them about your pollinator garden under threat. And most definitely call your local newspaper. Making noise and getting other people involved is the best way to get them to back down.


I was shocked by the city code in our suburb - it tells you the type of fence and number and list of species of trees to plant and maintain in your front yard and so on… When I lived further out in the country (and in Europe, maybe that’s the difference?) there was no regulations like that at all - we actually had a tall hedge of beech trees all around the property and along the road on one side. Nobody could even see into our yard and it felt like in a forest :)

Anyway, I’m not sure what exactly your violation is, but my impression of US cities is - they are very slow. I follow the city council meeting minutes in out city and the city cited someone for failing to repair their portion of sidewalk 7 years ago and… the guy still hasn’t repaired it, just contesting that he’s responsible year after year. And a sidewalk seems way more important to me than an unmown front yard. But I don’t know if that guy has to pay a yearly fine, so I suppose it could get expensive…


As far as HOAs, the only way to defeat one is to pack the board of directors and dissolve the HOA. The only other solution is to move.

Regarding both HOAs and city employees, you’re not going to convince a group of self-righteous know-it-alls that their personal sense of aesthetics shouldn’t apply to your property. In their minds, nature is and should be separate from “where civilized people live.” Their definition of “weeds” is and will always remain “plants that look ugly to someone in power personally.”

If you decide to contact city council and the mayor over this, I would focus on the following:

  1. Your plants don’t block or interfere with pedestrian traffic on a sidewalk, or traffic on a street. (If they do, fix that immediately.)

  2. The plants aren’t currently in their most aesthetically pleasing form, but “Most of the year, they look much better” and give them oodles of photos of spring blooms, even if the subjects aren’t your own plants.

  3. Your plants don’t attract pest species. Specifically mention that they either don’t attract, or in fact, actually repel, rodents, if you can find supporting peer-reviewed literature.

  4. Then bring up pollinator value and your conservation information. If any are protected, bring those up first.

  5. If, in the end, they make you remove your plants anyway, replace them with protected ones. :upside_down_face:

Off topic, but… There’s a very good chance he’s correct. I’ve fought the sidewalk battle before. Most sidewalks are public infrastructure.


That moth looks like a pest of some crops, such as apple, tomato and grapes. If the area is a crop growing area, I guess it may be reasonable to have such rules . It is interesting there are such rules.

Importantly, there are laws that protect the right of homeowners to convert their lawn and property into environmentally sustainable alternatives, regardless of what ordinances say, depending on the state!


Also some advice on this prairie rehab site I have linked to before.

From what I remember. Make your front garden look managed and cared for (no not manicured) Mown or paved paths. The habitat sign.

Every time I see his pictures of his lonely prairie garden … with miles of dreary mown green ugh, makes we want to weep. Who would prefer a neat green carpet to vibrant wildflowers?

No HOA regulations here and my hedge on our verge has eaten the pavement to defy neighbours who claim a ‘free parking’ space. Not!


I think that there is nothing more wrong. In the latest literature, living close to "nature, even in large cities, is a factor recognized as fostering wellness and good health.

I would agree in the case one grows a well known invader, especially it is close to a frail habitat, but some weeds…


I have never dealt or heard of a situation like this, but emphasizing that the yard is entirely composed of native species and if you have ever had any species of conservation concern in NM growing in or utilizing your yard I would think it would serve as additional justification.


I think it’s important to reach out to local community groups or (local affiliates of larger groups) for more specific advice. You may have to lawyer up.


I’m sorry to hear you have this struggle. I agree that contacting your city council and explaining the significance of your landscape could be a good move.

Might there be a neighbor who keeps making complaints that the City follows up? Perhaps you could put up a sign and send a letter to your near neighbors explaining the benefits of your landscape? I also agree getting an education story in the local papers would be a help .

Is there something you can do to tidy up, yet maintain the population of native plants? For example, if some have seasonally dried up, could you cut them and then shake the plants to distribute their seeds for next season, before adding the husks to the mulch bin?


I can claim to have the state flower, grass, bird, reptile, insect, and butterfly. Bombus pensylvanicus and morrisonii (sp?) are recognized in decline. It’s too bad that most insects have too little data and too obscure for conservation status.


Almost certainly, but they don’t talk to me. Everyone I interact with while doing yard work enjoys the flowers.

Probably, although it’s still quite green and lots of caterpillar activity. We’ll see!

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I got a notice on my front door lately - similar - about noxious weeds etc. We’ve been trying to assimilate more by tidying up better, but if it comes down to a fight I think I’ve got several people in my corner since we have a local group of like-minded individuals.
Maybe you could find some help with this organization?
I see they have a facebook group, if you are on facebook you could post and see if you could drum up support.


I don’t know if this is sarcasm? White-lined Sphinx cats eat mostly Oenothera and “weedy” plants and are one of the most recognizable hawk moths in the USA.


If you have evidence of them (like an iNat observation or other documentation) then absolutely I would mention it.

Think from the perspective of someone totally out of touch with nature; what would you have to hear to change your mind or pique your interest? Not everyone is super into nature and that’s OK, but if you say you have all of those state organisms in your yard and a species that is recognized as in decline using these plants in your yard as food plants it gives them tangible reasons for it to be preserved. Bombus are great too since they’re fuzzy, loved, and most people know what they are.

I didn’t provide advice beyond this previously but I agree with the advice @graysquirrel provided, especially at making a lot of noise. You’d be surprised how much weight awareness can carry, especially if a newspaper is willing to write a short article. Native plants and pollinator gardens are very trendy right now and as such the department won’t want the bad PR of forcing someone to destroy their pollinator garden.


I’m on the other side of the world. Never seen one before. Wikipedia article states that it can feed on apple and tomato plants.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re having to defend your right to grow native plants instead of a “green desert” lawn. I know what you’re going through; my parents live in a Florida subdivision with a horrible HOA that requires them to spend literally thousands of dollars a year to keep a lawn of a particular variety of crabgrass that dies whenever there is a drought, a cold snap, or an unkind word spoken in its general direction. But it is the only variety of crabgrass that the HOA will allow, and they’ll be fined if they replace it with anything else.

However, even in that neighborhood, a few brave souls have planted pollinator gardens of native species. Their beds were a little wild-looking (as they should be), but they were neatly edged with the concrete borders necessary to keep out the crabgrass, and one property owner had put lots of signage identifying the major plants and explaining the value of pollinator gardens. That garden in particular was teeming with butterflies and native bees, as well as honey bees, those media darlings.

Fight the good fight, and I hope you prevail!