A Central Lubbock woman posted a plea to her neighbors on social media just before Halloween. Don’t blow your leaves into the street. Inevitably, they end up in her yard.
Melanie Hancock responded to the woman’s post with a comment of support. She’s in a similar predicament with neighbors blowing leaves or grass clippings into the street.
The city took 43 complaint calls last year on this topic. A city ordinance forbids intentional disposal of grass clippings, leaves or other vegetation into any gutter, street, sidewalk, or other “drainage device.” All public streets and sidewalks are, by definition, part of the stormwater system in Lubbock.
It’s illegal, but only because it might interfere with the stormwater drainage. There is a Stormwater Compliance Hotline at (806) 775-3118, and people call.
‘It makes a mess’
“It’s just wrong,” Hancock said as she described why leaves and grass blown into the street are a problem in her Rush Neighborhood.
“It makes a mess out of the corners of each of the streets,” Hancock said. The wind pushes the grass and leaves only so far. They pile up in certain spots. Then it rains.
“There’s no place else for the water to go. We have a 70-foot driveway, and I have had water more than halfway up the driveway,” she said.
“There’s just dirt and debris and we end up sweeping it all up, which takes the better part of a day,” Hancock said.
She’s seen people blowing leaves or grass into the street.
“I’ve watched people do it. I’ve watched companies do it,” Hancock said. And telling her neighbors it’s a violation of the law sometimes makes for unhappy neighbors.
Enforcing the rules
“This is a difficult area to enforce,” said Trenia Harris, stormwater program manager. “Most times when the Stormwater Compliance Department receives complaints and an inspector investigates, the person in violation has left the location so the inspector is unable to enforce.”
The city will issue a citation if an inspector can find a repeat offender. Even before issuing a citation, the city tries to gently discourage violations.
“We send out post cards to citizens in the area around of a complaint case,” Harris said. The city also includes reminders in the monthly Lubbock Power & Light billing statements.
“A lot of times citizens aren’t aware,” Harris said. Even landscaping companies sometimes don’t know.
“They do change so frequently. You’ve just got individual operators that maybe have a pickup truck and trailer that go out and do things,” she said.
The city also tries to explain why it’s good to keep the grass clippings in the yard.
“After you mow, blow your clippings back onto the grass to provide beneficial nutrients to the soil,” the city says in a social media post. “If you leave them on the road, they not only look bad, but can end up floating through the storm drains into our playa lakes where they can hurt plants and fish.”
The situation is different when something blows in with the wind.
“Wind-blown trash or debris is not a violation. If it lands on your property, it’s yours to clean up,” said Stuart Walker, code enforcement administrator.
Tell the landscaping companies
Hancock wants the city to enforce the rules more aggressively and consistently, but there’s something else folks can do. Tell landscapers you do not want your yard debris pushed into the street with a leaf blower.
“If you hire somebody to do your lawn, make sure that person knows,” Hancock said.
“We have to be one voice. We have to be a voice that says, ‘Look, this has to stop,’” she said.
Harris said sometimes people complain that lawn-care contractors for the city will be in violation.
“We … make sure that they are aware of the ordinances and make sure that they’re aware they’re not supposed to be doing those things. I personally have hired contractors and make sure that they know,” Harris said.