AUSTIN (KXAN) — South Austin resident Gina Daniel walks past the intersection of Curlew Drive and Crownspoint Drive each day with her dog to admire the rows of sunflowers growing along the sidewalks. For the past year and a half, she said the sunflowers have been a bright spot amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, the City of Austin’s code enforcement department issued a notice last week, requiring the property owners to remove the sunflowers. The notice cited right-of-way mobility concerns and an ordinance prohibiting weeds and grasses over 12 inches tall from growing on a property.
The homeowners received the notice July 3 — and some neighbors are fighting back.
“I think it’s just pretty disappointing,” Daniel said. “It’s pretty disappointing that the city is focusing [its] energy and resources on these sunflowers instead of other pressing issues.”
Daniel isn’t alone in her frustrations with the citation. A Nextdoor post within the neighborhood garnered more than 200 reactions and nearly 200 comments from area residents overwhelmingly in support of the neighborhood trademark.
“The [heartbreaking] result, is that we now have until a week from today, to remove all of our Sunflowers from the ‘parkway’!” the homeowner posted in a Nextdoor message. “Any of our neighbors, friends, and complete strangers, who have a true appreciation of these flowers, is more than welcome, indeed encouraged, to come by, and take pictures, videos, or whatever, prior to the heart-rending moment, that this large portion of plants are gone, forever.”
The house is on the corner of a four-way stop intersection, where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. Officials from the Austin Transportation Department said in a statement it is looking into any visibility impairments related to the intersection.
“ATD is currently in the process of evaluating the intersection for any sight lines that may be obstructed by the vegetation in the Right Of Way,” officials said.
While ROW obstructions are cited as potential concerns for visibility and mobility, neighbors said the wide streets and quieter neighborhood haven’t been negatively impacted by the rows of flowers.
The Tanglewood Forest neighborhood where the patch resides doesn’t have a Homeowners Association, said resident Amy Leggett. She added she didn’t understand why officials issued a citation over this and not some lingering trash and remodeling home debris in the surrounding streets.
Sunflowers germinate in late spring, while peak sunflower season runs through the summer. Daniel, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences, said sunflowers help support local bee and butterfly populations, which in turn help maintain a balanced and cohesive ecosystem.
Outside of the environmental benefits provided by sunflowers, Daniel added the city protects some wildflower populations with preservation methods that prevent mowing or trimming. She said the same attentiveness and protective measures should go toward these flowers.
As of now, both Leggett and Daniel said the homeowners anticipate cutting down the flowers to avoid any prolonged code violations with the city. But some residents have requested they put up a fight, with a few saying they’d be happy to cover the citation fee.
“I know people make a point each summer to ride their bikes there and take their kids there and take pictures,” Daniel said. “And it really is like an icon in our neighborhood. Especially just after the past year and a half we’ve had, I feel like we’re all kind of clinging onto every bit of joy we can get and the sunflowers are definitely part of that.”