A couple months ago, an Orlando family made national news when city officials told them they could no longer have a 25 by 25 foot vegetable garden in their front yard. There seemed to be some respite after thousands of people even from around the world e-mailed city officials blasting them for threatening the Helvenston family with fines unless they tore out their garden.
Jason Helvenston, the homeowner who violated the city’s property codes by not having the aesthetically-pleasing dead lawn which apparently helps maintain property values, petitioned the city in November to change their rules and allow him to have his garden. After public outrage and petitioning, the city decided not to pursue fines and to allow the Helvenstons to keep their garden under one condition. They would likely have to shield in their garden with a city-approved fence.
This ordinance never actually made it officially to the city code, so the family never put in a fence. On Mr. Helvenston’s blog, he wrote that the city-approved fence isn’t something that he could afford anyway:
“FOOD should not be confused with aesthetic landscape. Our Patriot Garden produces real value, not perceived value. Our Patriot Garden grows a human necessity that contributes to our budget rather than an aesthetic grass yard that drains from it. We cannot afford expensive aesthetic upgrades to our attractive Patriot Garden. We will not be able to comply with Codes (not an HOA) based on vanity and conformity. Furthermore, we will do everything possible to stop the City of Orlando from requiring fencing out neighbors and community from our front yard Patriot Garden. Increasing the prohibitive costs and creating more impacts to the planet’s resources is not the goal of sustainability.”
That was back in November, and now, the city is back at it and threatening to fine the family up to $500 a day if they don’t tear out their garden by this Thursday. Jason’s wife Jennifer sent out a plea for residents in Orlando and around the country to plant their own front yard “Patriot Garden.” She said to e-mail her, and she would respond with a free packet of radish seeds and a sign that reads: “Patriot Garden: Plant a Seed, Change the Law.”
The Helvenstons might have some help from the Institute for Justice. An attorney with them said that they are considering taking a look at the case, but right now, they’re focusing on helping to get the word out and encouraging the city to reach a “sensible solution.”
I don’t know if the Helvenstons really believe in the United Nations’ buzz words like “sustainable development,” but I love that Jason uses their language against the very people whose job it is to enforce environmental regulations using the same words and phrases to justify their actions. He’s completely right to point out how his garden setup is a “sustainable” plot of land. He continued:
“The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to know they will not go hungry. Our Patriot Garden pays for all of its costs in healthy food and lifestyle while having the lowest possible carbon footprint. It supplies valuable food while being attractive. I really do not understand why there is even a discussion. They will take our house before they take our Patriot Garden.”
How can Jon Ippel, the Sustainability Director in Orlando, not be in favor of people growing their own food? He said they’re concerned that when it rains, the runoff from the garden might cause a water quality issue when it hits the lake. They’re worried that garden soil might get into the lake? I’m sure lots of horrible things get routinely dumped into lakes and oceans like pharmaceutical drugs, manufacturing plant bi-products, human and animal waste, and they’re worried about garden soil?
All the buzz words that these “sustainability” people use are only being used to convince people to give up their property rights to the state and allow the state to ration natural resources to people “for the greater good.” They don’t care one bit about the environment, having a small “carbon footprint,” achieving “sustainable development” or enacting “social justice.” They want nothing more than absolute control.
More power to the Helvenstons.