March 23, 2017

July 16, 2011

Off Topic:  Michigan Woman Faces 93 Days In Jail For Growing Vegetable Garden

Oh the horror!  

Their front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, so instead of replacing the dirt with grass, one Oak Park woman put in a vegetable garden and now the city is seeing green.

The list goes on: fresh basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cumbers and more all filling five large planter boxes that fill the Bass family’s front yard.

Julie Bass says, “We thought we’re minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn’t think people would care very much.”

But some cared very much and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.

“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass said . . .

City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are what Basses see as suitable.

However, Oak Park’s Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski says the city disagrees. He says, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.”

Hat tip to the good doctor.

Quite a few websites have picked up the article.  Here are a couple.

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My husband sent 25 bucks to her defense fund.  She has very neat raised beds in her front yard.  I’d do it too, if I didn’t have a nice big back yard to grow veggies in, and if I didn’t have maple trees in my front yard. 

Who says vegetables aren’t “suitable vegetation?”
Susan Peterson

[1] Posted by eulogos on 7-16-2011 at 10:11 AM · [top]

As I drive around,  I see many unused spaces which would grow food.  I drive past a south facing bank and think that, terraced, it would grow melons even in this climate.  I imagine neat plots of vegetables in the strip between the railroad and the street I drive along at the beginning of my work commute.  Of course, neat plots take work, but don’t Americans need to do more physical work for their health anyway? 

I should go pull some weeds. 
Susan Peterson

[2] Posted by eulogos on 7-16-2011 at 10:14 AM · [top]

There has been a kerfluffle here because a local celebrity has had the temerity to have a few hens in her yarn. Across the country, local homeowners associations are fining residents who seek to save energy by (horrors!) drying their sheets on clotheslines. I guess we are doomed to have nit-picking bureaucrats - didn’t Gilbert and Sullvan lampoon such fellows in the Mikado?

[3] Posted by sophy0075 on 7-16-2011 at 10:18 AM · [top]

Here in California we are bombarded with stories of neighborhood associations battling homeowners over the flying of Old Glory. Does <b>everything<b> have to be controlled by the government or snoopy people?
desert padre

[4] Posted by desertpadre on 7-16-2011 at 11:29 AM · [top]

Mustn’t allow people to live independently of the government corporate complex. Any dependence solely upon God’s provision for us that is not routed through some middleman is unacceptable, since it lessens our dependence on our fellow man, and as we all know: there is no individual salvation. Salvation concerns only the collective.

Some agenda 21 wonk(s) no doubt influenced the local legislative bodies, and they snuck this idiocy in. No one noticed until it was too late.

[5] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 7-16-2011 at 11:40 AM · [top]

This is about homeowners’ rights.  Covenants only make sense when one homeowner is infringing upon the rights of another such as opening a dirt bike track in the middle of a residential area (yes that happened).  Things like this are ridiculous at best, sinister at worst.  <sarcasm>If we can tell the government to get their hands off our bodies, why don’t we enjoy the same right when it comes to our property?</sarcasm>  This government’s lust for control will destroy this country.  It won’t happen quickly.  It’s like boiling a frog.  Today we’re arguing about a vegetable garden <gasp> in the front yard.  Next year it will be about whether or not we’re even allowed to grow food plants at all.  Don’t laugh, it’s already been proposed in congress.  I’m glad this couple is fighting this in court.  I’m glad that people are contributing to that fight. That’s the only thing the government seems to hear anymore.

[6] Posted by Modest Mystic on 7-16-2011 at 12:02 PM · [top]

All of this is why my wife and I have consistently refused to have anything to do with homeowners’ associations.  If, for instance, we choose to display our country’s flag, does that offend anyone?  Not where we live!  As for clotheslines, why should anyone care if you hang your clothes to dry in your own fenced-in backyard?  It’s none of their business!  And the garden?  I’m sorry, but this is one area where I agree that it shouldn’t be in the front yard.  That’s why we have backyards.  This lady and her husband should’ve checked with Code Enforcement first.  They would’ve avoided the trouble if they had.

[7] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-16-2011 at 12:13 PM · [top]

The 93 day jail sentence is ridiculous!

[8] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-16-2011 at 12:14 PM · [top]

Update… charges have been dropped against the lady growing the garden!

<a > link </a>

[9] Posted by billqs on 7-16-2011 at 01:24 PM · [top]

[10] Posted by billqs on 7-16-2011 at 01:26 PM · [top]

This is not a home owner’s association. This is CITY CODE people. Wow.

[11] Posted by AnnieCOA on 7-16-2011 at 01:31 PM · [top]

City codes are necessary, of course, or we’d have everything from apples to zinnias (which are nice) growing everywhere.  Part of the reason for the enforcement of such codes is to ensure that weeds don’t take over what should be a nice well-kept yard, vehicles aren’t parked on front lawns, and neighbors’ property values aren’t adversely affected.  So, there is a need for such codes, to be sure.  What is needed, however, is fair and timely enforcement by municipalities and willing compliance by homeowners.  Jail time is never called for, and I’m glad to see this lady’s not going to be in the slammer.

[12] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-16-2011 at 04:46 PM · [top]

Cennydd13, you are entirely too middle class for me!  Up the country we think what people do on their property is their own business, unless it is a meth lab. 
Many people out in the sticks have a junk car or two for spare parts.  When the suburbanites come in, they try to ban them.  I consider this way too intrusive.

If is a matter of an apple tree or zinnias,  anyone should be able to plant them anywhere on his property that he likes.  Of course there is the matter of power lines.  And a neighbor might not like the apples falling on his yard, one has to think of that.  But I balk at the thought of someone thinking that a front yard has to be grass and bushes.  If someone wants a field of wildflowers in the front yard,  his business!  Raised beds for vegetables, his, or her, business.

Susan Peterson

[13] Posted by eulogos on 7-16-2011 at 05:02 PM · [top]

Susan, nothing looks worse than two or three cars parked on a lawn, and even real country folks here think that’s a bad idea.  But of course, most of them have enough room on their back lots out behind the barn where they can store their old junkers, and some even use their corrals, if the horses are out.  A lot of us are ranchers, and we have the room….but we like nice-looking homes, too….with flower gardens in front.

[14] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-16-2011 at 09:25 PM · [top]

It is probably reasonable to assume that the law involved here was enacted by democratically elected officials whose voters include the property owner(s) involved in this controversy.  Such ordinances are usually intended to prevent one property owner from diminishing the value of other property owners.

Should the owner of the property next to your home be allowed to operate a barber shop there with a traditional barber’s pole? Should the owner of the land next door to your church or your children’s school be allowed to operate a liquor store there?  Should the owner of the property next door be allowed to let the weeds, no reference to marijuana intended, grow waist high?  Should the owner of the property next door be allowed to grow a vegetable garden in the front yard?  Would corn “as high as an elephant’s eye” be OK? 

There is an old saw that goes something like this:  Your right to swing your fist ends where my chin begins. 

The property owner’s right to have a vegetable garden in his/her front lawn might well end where it might reasonably be expected to diminish the value of adjacent properties.  Something which might diminish value in one set of circumstances might enhance value in another.  How does the appearance of the vegetable garden compare to the appearance of the adjacent properties?  Is there anyone here who knows?  The issue of the effect of the front yard vegetable garden on adjacent property values has not been addressed here, to the best of my knowledge.  Is that not a material issue?

God bless.

[15] Posted by Ol' Bob on 7-16-2011 at 09:44 PM · [top]

I was with a rancher in my colorado community.  She’s not a believer.  And in the conversation, she brought up that she couldn’t buy into my church’s teaching on abortion because there’s so many starving people.  I retorted, she raises horses, which are, at this point, a hobby and not a tool.  Moreover, as long as we in this arid place water grass, we’re really not worried about hunger. 
IMHO, there was a time when self-reliance was valued.  People had vegetable gardens and animals because they raised some of their own food.  Not that long ago, animals grazed on the White House lawn.  It’s hard and frustrating work, but people who never clean up crap, pull weeds, or fight off bugs live in la-la land.  The join things like PETA. 
In the community where I grew up on the shore of lake Eire, the town has passed laws protecting farms from the complaints of neighbors.  People like good food, just don’t grow it near me.  Here in Colorado, people buy country homes then complain about the cattle next door.  AHHHHH.  The unbearable lightness of being.  Nothing grounds a person like growing food.  If the woman’s garden is neat, the neighbors should bug off.  Food isn’t some dirty thing that needs to be hid way out somewhere in the country where no one will be disturbed by it.

[16] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 7-16-2011 at 11:06 PM · [top]

How does the appearance of the vegetable garden compare to the appearance of the adjacent properties?  Is there anyone here who knows?  The issue of the effect of the front yard vegetable garden on adjacent property values has not been addressed here, to the best of my knowledge.  Is that not a material issue?

If you watch the video on the link you can see her vegetable garden is well-maintained, and the news even compared it to other neighborhood yards where grass was growing out of control.  It looks no different to me than a terraced garden that might house flowers.

I’m much closer to Susan’s view on this.  In English Common Law your property was your “castle”, your dominion.  Except for that which physically caused waste (legal term for destruction) to your neighbor’s property you were allowed to do what you pleased on your land. 

While some zoning laws are needed, the one they were using to attempt to prosecute this garden grower was so vague that I don’t know they would have prevailed had it went to court.  Government expands its reach more and more into everyone’s daily lives, and it especially bothers me when the government wants to step in and tell someone they can’t grow my own food.

[17] Posted by billqs on 7-16-2011 at 11:20 PM · [top]

Here in our town, there is (or was) a sign next to a road running past one of the ranches, and that sign read “This is an agricultural area, and we have livestock on this ranch.  Those cattle and horses attract flies.  Get used to it!”  Neatly said!  We also have an abattoir on the main road leading out of town, and you know what that means.  We used to allow chickens and goats on some properties, but the City Council voted to change that.  No one complained, and most accepted that decision as reasonable.

[18] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-16-2011 at 11:35 PM · [top]

A few people here in Texas where water is precious and heat is abundant have
practiced xeriscape landscaping and run into city officials who seem to think St Augustine and Bermuda are the only acceptable vegetation for the front yard.  The first one in a neighborhood does stick out like a sore thumb and probably has a small adverse effect on neighbor’s property values While rocks and yucca plants may not be my cup of tea, I
applaud the water-consciousness of these folk and think the practice will expand. Once there are several in a neighborhood, people will become more accustomed to the sight and it
will not be seen at detrimental.
As for the lady in Oak Park, since the ordinance says all areas not paved should be covered with appropriate vegetation, she could threaten to completely pave her yard.
The thing that bothers me is, as her attorney states, that she seems to be singled out for prosecution, without
due process of notification before ticketing, in the dog license issue.

[19] Posted by Marie Blocher on 7-17-2011 at 07:11 AM · [top]

It can be so hard to please the bureaucrats!  Good to note that Oak Park has dropped the charges.  Where I live the water department lately is encouraging people to grow veggies in raised beds, pictured in their quarterly brochure (comes with the bill) in what looks to me like a front yard.  Perhaps a quarter of the people in our street have veggies, mainly mixed in with flowers, growing in front and then there are the prolific citrus trees.  I think Michelle Obama would approve of the Bass garden - weren’t they growing a veggie garden on the White House lawn (does it even have a ‘back yard’?) ?

[20] Posted by TACit on 7-17-2011 at 08:56 AM · [top]

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