Nuisance Ordinance RevisionsShowImage

In 2010, Parks and Recreation staff took the lead on revisions to the City’s nuisance ordinance to allow greater flexibility with native plantings.  The previous ordinance prohibited any vegetation over 10 inches in height.  The revised ordinance allows for multiple exceptions on private and public property.

West Des Moines City Code


Whatever is injurious to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as essentially to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance. Nuisances shall include, but not be limited to, those activities and items hereafter set forth in this section:

A. Weeds: Weeds or vegetation allowed to grow to a height greater than ten inches (10") on the average, or any accumulation of dead weeds, grass, brush, or trees on any occupied or unoccupied lot or land. Exceptions include:

1. Trees And Shrubs: The use of trees and shrubs for landscaping purposes;

2. Erosion Control: Areas planted to offset and control any soil loss problems, both occurring or predicted, including areas along waterways and edges of lakes, ponds, and stormwater retention/detention facilities;

3. Wooded Areas: All areas that are predominately wooded and over one acre in size;

4. Educational Programs: Any areas designated for educational studies;

5. Gardens: Areas dedicated to growing fruits or vegetables for personal consumption or to growing flowers, native plants, ornamental grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and similar plants which are cultivated and/or mulched to remain free of weeds, grassy weeds, or volunteer plants. Vegetation in gardens shall not be allowed to grow onto adjacent property. Fruit and vegetable gardens are prohibited within the public right of way. Landscaping with flowers, plants, and grasses may be allowed within the public right of way, but shall be limited to the immediate area surrounding a mailbox, shall not exceed eight (8) square feet in size, and shall not interfere with the vision triangle as provided in this code. There shall be no compensation by the city to the property owner for any damage to or removal of such items placed within the public right of way;

6. Streetscapes: Plantings within the public right of way that are part of a planned city streetscape or a landscape plan submitted and approved as part of a development permit;

7. Parks And Open Space: Any and all public parks and open space lands whether under the jurisdiction of federal, state, county, or local agencies, including private conservation/preservation organizations; and

8. Native Planting Areas: Areas of native plant species on any parcel, with the exception of individual single-family lots, that are part of a landscape plan submitted and approved as part of a development permit.
All vegetation, other than trees and shrubs, must be cut at least once annually to a height no greater than ten inches (10"). As an alternative to cutting, native planting areas (see exceptions at subsections A7 and A8 of this section) on both private and public property may be maintained by controlled burning with an approved permit from the city's fire department. Natural areas in public parks and greenways shall be exempt from annual maintenance requirements.

No exceptions will be granted that violate the Iowa noxious weeds and the Iowa weed law chapter 317, code of Iowa, 2009.