Food Not Lawns.

Last year, a Michigan suburb made headlines when it charged a resident with a misdemeanor for failure to keep her front yard properly under the city code. Her offense? She built raised vegetable beds in her yard instead of growing grass.

“That’s not what we want to see in a front yard,” said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski.

The city ordinance in question provides the following minimum standard, across all zoning categories:

“All unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material.” Article XVII, §1716.

The city interprets “suitable live plant material” to include only those plants that are “common,” like grass, shrubs, and flowers.

After a public outcry, the city backed down and dropped all charges against the front yard gardener. The ordinance remains unchanged, but the city of Oak Park may choose to interpret the term “suitable” more broadly than merely “traditional” or “customary.”

Posted on by Becky Witt

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