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A Kansas City Front Yard Sets Off Debate On City Codes

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Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Dennis Moriarty's overflowing wildflowers drew the attention of bees, birds and other pollinators. But it also drew the attention of a Kansas City code enforcer who gave him a warning.

Dennis Moriarty was thinking of the bees and butterflies when he replaced all the grass in his front yard with wildflowers.

Mowing his steep front yard was getting to be too difficult for Dennis Moriarty so he decided to help the environment while eliminating the need to mow.

Last year Moriarty laid plastic over the 1500 square feet of the yard to smother the grass. This spring he dug out the top four inches of soil to remove the grass roots and seeded the area with a "butterfly mix" of flowers, some of which have grown to more than six feet in height.

The city became aware of the pollinator garden and warned the 80-year old Moriarty that he is in violation of city codes and must trim back the plants.

Moriarty took to Twitter posting a photo of his front yard and saying in part, "now KC CODES has photographed as weeds and I'll be hauled to Court..these Are flowers planted specifically to support bees, Hummingbirds butterflies..im disgusted."

The response on social media was swift, supportive and beyond what Mr. Moriarty expected. His plight drew 24.6 thousand likes, 4,900 retweets and a reply from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas who asked Moriarty to direct message him to start a conversation to resolve the issue.

Alix Daniel, a native landscape specialist, underscored the value of these plantings. "If we can create these channels throughout the city, these passageways for these pollinators and for these birds then we can help them to make it to the other side of our city, literally, and out back into natural areas."

Mayor Quinton Lucas joined the on-air conversation saying, "I would hope at least starting this week and in weeks future we have a chance to evaluate what Kansas City wants to do in connection with its codes."

At the invitation of Dennis Moriarty the mayor agreed to visit the garden that afternoon and Alix Daniel also offered to visit with Moriarty about finding plants that can fulfill the needs of pollinators and be more in compliance with city codes.

  • Dennis Moriarty, Kansas City, Missouri resident and gardener
  • Alix Daniel, native landscape specialist, Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center
  • Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri
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