Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oak Park Hates Veggies

You know what's ridiculous? Lawns. You know what's more ridiculous? Jailing someone for failing to comply with your city planner's interpretation of your lawn ordinance. WTF Oak Park? After sewer line replacement left her front yard torn up, Julie Bass decided to plant a vegetable garden rather than replace her grass. Unfortunately, Oak Park's city planner doesn't believe vegetables meet the city's requirement that front lawns be covered in "suitable" live plant material.

Oak Park Woman Faces 93-Days in Jail For Planting Vegetable Garden: MyFoxDETROIT.com

It's interesting to note that in both clips, Kevin Rulkowski's argument seems to hinge on Webster's Dictionary's definition of "suitable" being "common." Perhaps the city planner is using an old copy of MWD, because merriam-webster.com defines "suitable" as:
a : adapted to a use or purpose - suitable for kitchen use
b : satisfying propriety : proper - suitable dress
c : able, qualified - a suitable candidate for the job
Regardless of the actual definition, I think it's pretty asinine for a city waste time and money in an effort to jail someone for growing food in their yard. Julie faces a pretrial hearing on the 26th. If convicted, she faces up to 93 days in jail. You can follow Julie's battle and find some great recipes for produce on her blog, Oak Park Hates Veggies. I'm really glad Ann Arbor doesn't have and/or enforce ordinances that are quite this backwards.


  1. Front yard veggie gardens are appearing all over my neighborhood (Dicken Elementary School area). It's really quite exciting to see what my neighbors are growing.

  2. The city planner isn't wrong about the meaning of suitable if propriety is a sense of the word.

  3. If there isn't a proper definition of suitable, then I don't see how they can charge someone for violating it.

    And I'm surprised Ann Arbor doesn't have an ordinance like this.

  4. I'm really glad Ann Arbor doesn't have and/or enforce ordinances that are quite this backwards.

    Uh. I will make you a bet that Ann Arbor has some sort of ordinance exactly like this -- mandating that all areas of a property not covered in buildings or parking be covered in "grass, shrubs, ground cover, or other suitable live plant material," or some such.

    The difference is in interpretation, which is genuinely in the hands of the local government to make, via the zoning administrator and Zoning Board of Appeals, up until the point the courts say otherwise. Oak Park's interpretation in this case may be one of the more sensational, and I strongly disagree with it, but I acknowledge that it's their choice to make, as one of the fundamental features of local government.

    I wrote (much) more on google+ a little while back, here's a newly public version of it: https://plus.google.com/?tab=yX#108104172501575190032/posts/5m3JN7wuXi3.