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Michigan Woman Faces 93-Days in Jail For Planting Vegetable Garden
(15894 views) Uploaded 7/9/2011 3:45:00 PM by SimisMisis   (334 videos)

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Oak Park Woman Faces 93-Days in Jail For Planting Vegetable Garden

OAK PARK, Mich. (WJBK) - "The price of organic food is kind of through the roof," said Julie Bass.

So, why not grow your own? However, Bass' garden is a little unique because it's in her front yard.

"We thought it'd be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see. The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help," she said.

Bass' cool garden has landed her in hot water with the City of Oak Park. Code enforcement gave her a warning, then a ticket and now she's been charged with a misdemeanor.

"I think it's sad that the City of Oak Park that's already strapped for cash is paying a lot of money to have a prosecutor bothering us," Bass told FOX 2's Alexis Wiley.

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

Why? The city is pointing to a code that says a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material. The big question is what's "suitable?"

We asked Bass whether she thinks she has suitable, live, plant material in her front yard.

"It's definitely live. It's definitely plant. It's definitely material. We think it's suitable," she said.

So, we asked Rulkowski why it's not suitable.

"If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what's common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers," he said.

But when you look at front yards that are unsightly and overgrown, is Bass' vegetable garden really worth the city's time and money?

We asked Rulkowski what he would say to those who feel this is ridiculous.

"I would argue that you won't find that opinion from most people in Oak Park," he responded.

"I have a bunch of little children and we take walks to come by and see everything growing. I think it's a very wonderful thing for our neighborhood," said neighbor Devorah Gold.

"They don't have (anything) else to do (if) they're going to take her to court for a garden," said neighbor Ora Goodwin.

We did find one neighbor who wasn't a fan and thinks it needs to go.

"I know there's a backyard. Do it in the backyard," he said.

"They say, 'Why should you grow things in the front?' Well, why shouldn't I? They're fine. They're pretty. They're well maintained," said Bass.

It looks like this critical debate is headed for a jury trial and neither side is backing down.

"I could sell out and save my own self and just not have them bother me anymore, but then there's no telling what they're going to harass the next person about," Bass told us.

There's another pretrial scheduled for July 26. The next step could be a jury trial.

Video Keywords:     faces    jail    vegetable    in    planting    for    michigan    woman    93-days    garde   

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Viewer Comments (8 total)

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ItsJustMe
Posted 8/4/2011 4:41:55 AM
Anyone with a brain in their head would understand that this garden meets ALL of the terms of the zoning code. There are plenty of landscaping plants that 'I' would not deem "suitable", or that are certainly not "common", but they might still fall well within this code. Just because her nosy neighbor(s) don't like her brand of plant, does not give them the right to dictate her CHOICE of live plant material. Find something to do with your lives, and stay out of your neighbors business, for Gods' sake.
Sumner
Posted 7/17/2011 7:11:37 PM
The title is unfair for this video, as the jail sentence doesn't seem to be about the actual planting of the garden. The city tried to enforce a zoning code already in place and this lady did not follow it; she has to pay the price. Since she hasn't even met them halfway (could help get public support to amend the code), she has harassed them much more than they did her.
Accio-Love
Posted 7/14/2011 4:04:58 AM
Even if you want to go with the garden being uncommon as a reason for it being unacceptable, wouldn't a great show of support from the neighbors be to grow even one or two vegetable plants in their front yards? If anyone knows how to get in touch with this woman, I'd love for them to give the message to her. A few neighbors with similar live plant material in their front yards could help her case considerably.
heidi
Posted 7/12/2011 6:29:46 PM
I think the garden is suitable live plant material. I would be much happier if my neighbors had their own gardens, especially one as nice as this one.
Steven
Posted 7/11/2011 8:20:34 PM
I'm sorry but it took me more time to create an account and write this comment then to check the webster dictionary online and it does NOT state suitable is same as common. Suit´a`ble a. 1. Capable of suiting; fitting; accordant; proper; becoming; agreeable; adapted; as, ornaments suitable to one's station; language suitable for the subject. this is what it states http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/suitable
eamon2003
Posted 7/11/2011 7:38:55 PM
The government was either or dishonest when he said if you look in Webster's Dictionary it defines "suitable" as "common". I checked 2 dictionaries, Websters and American Heritage and neither one has the word common in the definition. Webster's says "meeting the requirements of a situation, purpose, etc." Well edible vegetables meet the requirements of her situation BETTER than an inedible lawn. Why didn't the reporters or producers check the definition and include it in the broadcast. Perhaps they should do a follow-up with the government representative and bring a few dictionaries with them!
Heartslord
Posted 7/11/2011 12:03:35 PM
What a lovely setup with the raised beds. I thought the "entire yard" was one big farm from the coverage. I did not a zinnia (flowers) in the bed. Fact is we need EVERYONE to grow vegetables and eat healthy foods. Government is only as good as we make it and this is a clear example of gov't out of control. When beaurocrats dictate how we live our lives we have become a Soviet Socialist Republic. I recently appreciate Ms. Bass standing up for what is right. I only hope the local government doesn't jettison its fuel, head back to the airport and escorted by 2 F16 fighter planes. Oops.. that was the overreaction from a fistfight on an airplane.
DianeDi
Posted 7/11/2011 11:10:33 AM
Would this be a issue if she had a number of fruit bearing trees in her front yard? People have apple, plum, cherry and mulberry trees and does that mean in Oak Park this is not acceptable? In the 1800 / 1900's, historically the front yards were used for vegetable and fruit gardens, while the backyard housed the formal flower gardens for entertaining.

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