Oak Park battles city over vegetable garden in their front yard

OAK PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) - Their front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, so instead of replacing the dirt with grass, one Oak Park woman put in a vegetable garden and now the city is seeing green.

The list goes on: fresh basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cumbers and more all filling five large planter boxes that fill the Bass family's front yard.

Julie Bass says, "We thought we're minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn't think people would care very much."

But some cared very much and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.

"They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn't move them because we didn't think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn't think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor," Bass said.

Julie even has an upcoming jury trial.

City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are what Basses see as suitable.

However, Oak Park's Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski says the city disagrees. He says, "If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you'll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard."

Rulkowski spoke to Julie Bass in April when she first called to see if it would be okay and since then it has been a growing concern.

He says, "I told her don't do it, and she went ahead and did it anyway."

Jason Bass says, "The city is so strapped for cash right now that they have gone from a five-day work week to a four-day work week. They've canceled the fireworks to save money. City resources are really strapped and now we want to go on a jury trial for our vegetables in our front yard."

Rulkowski says, "She is the one who has asked for a jury trial. So, I don't know what to say about that, but we'll let the legal system work its way through the process and hopefully we'll get a good result."

Julie has even created a web site called oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com where she is blogging about all of all of this.

Her pretrial hearing is July 26.

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