Several local councils in the United States has come under the light recently, due to restrictive regulations on the types of animals and plants that an individual could have in their own backyard. Let’s have a look at a few high-profile cases.
Julie Bass is an Oak Park resident who has gotten in trouble with the local authorities for having a garden in her front yard. According to her, she wasn’t particularly environmentally conscious, but that the notion of having a garden would be far more fruitful than planting grass alone. The existing regulations were fuzzy and ill-defined, stating that one could only have grass, shrubbery or other suitable live plant material in their front yards.
As such, the trial hinged upon the definition of suitable, and she faced the risk of being held in captivity for 93 days if she was found guilty.
Jason Helvenston, who chose to plant his own garden as a cost-effective measure, is caught in a similar dilemma. While some of his neighbours have benefitted from his harvest, others, like Pedro Padin, have chosen to file a complaint with the authorities. Pedro was afraid that the garden would ruin the aesthetics of the area and, subsequently, the price of the property. Therefore, Orlando City Hall has requested that Jason remove these plants and to replace them with approved ground covers instead, in order to uphold the city’s aesthetics.
Orlando has taken Jason’s case into consideration and proposed modifications to existing laws in order to allow front yard gardens with restrictions, of course. As long as the plants occupy approximately half the lawn and are properly trimmed, it would be perfectly legal.
Pros: The new rules will be a better alternative to the old ones, as the rights of both those who wish to have their own gardens and those who wanted to preserve the aesthetics of an urban area will be protected.
Cons: The rules to be put in place will still be highly restrictive, and gardens that adhere to the guidelines are unlikely to be productive, if at all.
What kind of vegetables ought to be planted, the width and height restrictions of the garden, these pose limits to the very concept of self-sufficiency.
There are still gray areas when it comes to implementation of the rulings. The extent to which a garden complies with the rulings or not is a matter of arbitrary opinion by the officer in charge of the matter.
New Rulings are needed
Michel Beauchamp and Josee Landry
This couple spent a whopping $2,500 on their frontyard garden, which was purported to be ‘tasteful and orderly’, only to receive a notice from the officials to remove the garden within seven days or to be fined $300 per day for not complying.
Frontyard gardens in Drummondville has to have at least 30 per cent grass, with rulings being proposed to ban front yard gardens outright – a decision that obviously wasn’t given thorough consideration. However, their case was brought to the limelight. With petitions and media coverage, eventually the couple were permitted to keep their garden. New modifications are being proposed to the current rulings on front yard gardens.
Ban on Livestock Rulings
The Michigan state government has deployed new rulings when it comes to rearing livestock in residential areas by proposing changes to the existing Right to Farms act.
Under these new rulings, livestock farmers can no longer appeal to the Right to Farm act if they are raising livestock in primarily residential areas, that is, if there’s another house within 250 feet or if there are 13 homes within an eighth of a mile where chickens, goats, or other livestock are kept.
This means that residents will be penalized for keeping any creature deemed by the state as farm animals.
Cons : This would ban anyone having so much as a chicken running around their house or yard.
Seen by some as far too restrictive to be practical, the rule is almost an outright ban of self-sufficiency.
Perhaps, there could be some modification to the rulings to allow for certain animals provided that it adheres to reasonable boundaries.
The bill, if passed, would ban individuals planting food in their own garden and small time gardeners looking to make a living.
Only those involved in large agri related businesses will be given the rights to plant such crops.
But the overwhelming public uproar with regards to this issue has forced the government to take a step back and propose relevant modifications to the bill.
Initially drafted to prevent inferior plants from flooding the market, the Bill seems to have catapulted in the wrong direction. But it is enlightening that the New Zealand Government is looking into the issue and amending the Bill according to public opinion.
The laws and rules governing local municipalities have been so restrictive as to border upon being authoritarian.
Orlando goes so far as to dictate that plants have to be a minimum of 24 inches in height and spaced not more than 36 inches apart, and berms shall not exceed a slope of 3:1.
These rules, drafted purportedly to uphold public health and safety, seems more geared towards protecting individual property rights and property valuation. Not only that, they tend to contravene rights to self sustenance.
There are perfectly legitimate reasons for proposing rulings that restrict individuals from having gardens in their front yard.
Unkempt and unruly gardens that are mismanaged would negatively impact the aesthetics, and hence, the traffic into the area, thus corroding the local economy.
Crops that aren’t properly cared for, and those with excessive chemical additives may also endanger the health of both the gardeners and the recipients or buyers of those plants.
Hence, guidelines have to be put in place to ensure that such incidents don’t take place. That said, public opinions have to be taken into account when drafting new rulings, so as to ensure that the rights of the residents are protected.