Mar 28, 2024 - News

Des Moines wants to redefine "weeds" and some are worried

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A new nuisance grass and weed ordinance proposed by Des Moines city staff may have unintended consequences, warns Councilperson Josh Mandelbaum.

Why it matters: Desirable plants that are not intentionally cultivated — like the bluebells his family allows to grow in their yard — could be targeted, Mandelbaum argued during a council meeting last week.

State of play: Currently, Des Moines' code prohibits any weeds or plants over 12 inches. Weeds are defined as "all vegetation, other than trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens."

  • City staff's proposed change broadens "weed" to any plant that's not intentionally grown, is "unsightly and economically useless" or any undesirable or hazardous plant.
  • It would now apply to grass 10 inches or taller with exceptions for gardens, farmland and purposely planted vegetation.
  • Violators would have at least 10 days to come into regulation before the city would mow and bill them for the cost.

Catch up fast: Tall grass issues have been handled by the Polk County Weed Commissioner at no cost to the city for decades, even though almost all of the 1,700 annual complaints originated in DSM.

  • The county is transitioning away from that free service, and city staffers are gearing up to take over the duty this year.

What's next: The council agreed to further review the definition.

  • More discussion is expected during an April 1 meeting.

Related: DSM cuts "No Mow May"

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