City Hall

Burton Knight Agrees to Truce with City Hall on Water-Friendly Lawn, Gets to Keep His Cacti

Burton Knight is declaring a qualified victory in his battle with City Hall over his water-friendly lawn.

"I was able to negotiate keeping the cactuses and not the boulders," Knight said. "I think that I'd rather have the biodiversity and the pleasures that cactuses bring than the rocks, even thought the rocks were an important part of the design."

The Landmark Commission approved the compromise yesterday, a month-and-a-half after requiring Knight to replace his meticulously xeriscaped yard with grass, which they deemed more appropriate to the Junius Heights Historic District.

In the run-up to yesterday's meeting, city staff had endorsed a plan that would remove both the cacti and boulders. Knight thinks it was the pictures he passed around of his lawn in full spring flower that ultimately convinced commissioners to give his succulents a reprieve. The fact that his cacti are native to North Texas and were there centuries before his neighbor's Bermuda doesn't seem to have factored into the decision.

Knight would have preferred to keep the boulders as well, which have "communities of moss and lichen on them and are really beautiful, and the plants around them really thrive." But it quickly became clear that the rocks were a nonstarter with several members of the commission. So, Knight relented.

"I could have taken it further but I think the emotional cost and the risk would have just thrown me back into the same position of worry and uncertainty that I've been in... I think closure had the higher value (than) continuing to fight," he says.

In addition to removing the boulders, Knight will have to add water-friendly buffalo grass and lower the yard's edging, both of which he says he can live with. Now he's hoping the city will allow him to wait until the plants are dormant to make the changes. That comes in January or so.