A city planner in Oak Park, Michigan apparently did not get the memo about gardens being a good thing.
The Oak Park official wants to put residents Jason and Julie Bass in jail for putting a tidy garden in their modest front yard.
The action comes in stark contrast to the garden-promoting city of Detroit, located just 15 miles south of Oak Park. Detroit’s garden boosting is being duplicated by other cities around the country, but not in Oak Park.
The Bass family said they decided to build a front yard garden because of frequent reports of produce being contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli.
This spring, their front yard was torn up for replacement of a sewer pipe and when that project was completed, they decided to grow their own produce instead of grass.
Their front yard now contains five planter boxes growing herbs, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and the like. Most of their neighbors liked the new garden, but city enforcement officers did not.
The couple were ticketed, charged with a misdemeanor code violations, and ordered to removed the boxes. Instead, they’ve opted for a a jury trial but risk the potential for a 93-day jail sentence for refusing to destroy their garden.
Oak Parks city code requires home owners to plant grass, ground cover, shrubbery or other “suitable materials” on all unpaved front yards. The city planner is insisting that produce is not “suitable.”
The Basses think they will do better with a jury of their peers, and they point to numerous homes in the cash-strapped city that are overrun with weeds and poor landscaping.
The Oak Park garden is getting extensive publicity, in part because the couple are savvy users of the media. She has a Facebook page called Oak Park Hates Veggies and a blog where she writes about the Oak Park’s “war on vegetables.”
More than 5,000 have signed a petition in support of the Bass family. It is titled: “Stop the Prosecution of the Bass Family for Growing Veggies.” Detroit television stations have been all over the story.
The court date is set for July 26. Oak Park has about 30,000 residents.