By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
And when nobody recently showed up at Parkhurst's house for a Tupperware party, Rhoads says, he and his two sons tried to salvage the gathering. "I had to spend $300 in order for her to get this $65 bowl."
When Parkhurst began talking about mulch last summer, Rhoads says, he was initially open to her idea of filling in a small hole around his chain-link fence. "When she had first started, it was fine," Rhoads says. "She just got carried away."
Rhoads contends that he responded to Parkhurst's mulch project by asking her to put her plan in writing so he could assess how much it would cost and whether it would work. Protecting their property from erosion, he adds, was not an issue because the hill is underlain by white rock.
Rhoads says Parkhurst never gave him any written proposals and, instead, began hauling in mulch last August and dumping it on his property. Within days, Rhoads says, his fence was buried in mulch and trees were falling left and right.
"My fence. My trees. This woman has screwed with me so much, it's disrupted my life. How do you replace a 50-year-old tree?" Rhoads asks. "I can't stop her. I called the city. I called the attorneys, but I can't stop her. But in the long run, you know what? I'll stop her."
Evidently, the first time Rhoads tried to stop Parkhurst occurred on the afternoon of August 18, when he watched in horror as Parkhurst knocked over a young cedar tree that he contends was on his property.
Shortly before 5 p.m. that day, Dallas police responded to a 911 call from Parkhurst, in which she complained that Rhoads was threatening a man who was working in her yard. When officers arrived, Parkhurst told them that she and Rhoads had "entered into a civil agreement about filling in a hole on their property lines," a police report states.
Rhoads told the officers that the worker, Holcomb Tree Service employee Pete Sistus, had damaged a tree on his property. According to their report, the officers told Parkhurst and Rhoads that the problem was a civil matter, one they could take before a judge.
That visit was the first of many Dallas police officers and city employees would soon make to the 7200 block of Eccles Drive. And that single phone call set in motion the creaky machinery of a cumbersome city bureaucracy, which continues to spin its wheels on Parkhurst's mulch pile today.
While Rhoads and Parkhurst argued over the damaged tree, a new city ordinance relating to illegal dumping and fill operations was slowly making its way through City Hall, and this is where the heart of Parkhurst's conspiracy theory lies.
On July 31, the City Plan Commission considered a proposal to change a city ordinance that would limit the amount of fill a person could dump at one location to five truckloads or 50 cubic yards of material each year.
Anyone hoping to dump more than that would have to first obtain a specific use permit from the city and gain the approval of the City Council by showing, in part, that the filling won't "alter drainage" of the property or "adversely affect" adjacent properties and surrounding uses.
The new rule also provides that any illegally deposited fill material must be removed within 60 days after the property owner is notified by the city's code enforcement department. If not, the owner can be fined up to $2,000.
Just as Parkhurst claims, Plan Commissioner Betty Wadkins made the motion on the July 31 vote, which passed unanimously and was sent to the City Council for final action.
Wadkins, who lives in Parkhurst's Piedmont-Scyene neighborhood, declined to comment on Parkhurst's conspiracy theory--except to say that she was unaware of the mulch pile situation until after the Plan Commission's July vote.
"I really don't want to get into this mess," Wadkins says. "This is a lady that, well, she and the neighbors don't agree."
Like Wadkins, council member Larry Duncan says he, too, was unaware of Parkhurst's mulch pile when he brought the ordinance up for consideration by the council on August 27.
"Parkhurst's situation wasn't a factor. Had I known of it at the time, sure, it would have been," Duncan says. "It is an example of the type of thing we're trying to prevent with the ordinance."
Contrary to Parkhurst's conspiracy theory, Duncan says the ordinance change is part of a continuing effort to combat illegal dumping throughout the city and improve enforcement of codes and ordinances.
"We spend more time trying to get code enforcement to do their job than everything else combined," Duncan says. "The bottom line is, when what you do on your property starts affecting surrounding property owners, that's where the line is drawn."
Duncan, who complains that he's still working on code enforcement cases that he started in 1991 when he first was elected to the council, is frustrated that the code enforcement department hasn't forced Parkhurst to clean up her pile.
"The city hasn't taken the action necessary to simply go there, pick it up and haul it out, and bill her. If she doesn't pay the bill, slap a lien on her house," Duncan says. "There's been due process. The city needs to go out now, in fact yesterday, last month, the month before that, and haul it away."