Imagine having to hire a lawyer to defend your shrubs. Yet, I suppose more people than I care to think about have had to do just that.
Here’s another front yard that’s run afoul of neighbors and city officials; it belongs to a friend of mine, Jean. This house is at the end of a street in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo. Most of the houses around here feature Arts and Crafts-style and other turn-of-the-century or early twentieth century architecture.
Jean has Rose of Sharon, rudbeckia, cosmos, a Kentucky coffee tree and a flourishing stand of name-forgotten red-berried shrubs (center—they’re covered in white flowers in early summer). It’s much, much, more than any of her neighbors have planted in their front yards, and a city of Buffalo housing inspector has just informed her that he’s writing her up for a court appearance. One of the neighbors has complained (that’s all it takes), but Jean doesn’t know who.
I’m not sure what they’ll make her do. It’s not like she can mow down anything; trees and shrubs would have to be uprooted. I suppose the rudbeckia would be easy enough to pull up. But why? No one has complained of visibility problems. All Jean has heard from the inspector is that her yard “doesn’t look like the other yards.” That must sound flimsy even to him because he’s now saying she should paint a back shed and fix a few other minor infractions (if indeed they are infractions).
Of course, Jean’s had to retain an attorney. She loves the shrubs and plans to fight for them until the end. It’s very discouraging that she has to, but as we know, this often happens when you diverge too radically from the norm in urban and suburban neighborhoods.
I’m not saying that these plantings would be my choices; I prefer more open space. But I also don’t see why she should have to spend money defending what is obviously a cultivated and cared-for piece of private property.
I guess the inspector would much prefer this front yard (below), a few doors down.
[Editor's note: This fascinating story continues with Jean's Garden on Trial, Continued, Sally Jean's 2 Cents, All's well that ends well, Mayor Brown said he only got involved..., and finally, the Victory Party.]Posted by Elizabeth Licata on September 15, 2007 at 6:00 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.