Jason and Jennifer Helvenston of Orlando, Florida decided to plant a vegetable garden, on their own private property of 20 years. They had to plant it in the front yard as that was the best spot for sunlight, and gave the greatest chance of success with their crops. They wanted to grow their own food in order to produce an abundance of their very own healthy food right on their doorstep. The Helvenston’s intended to live a more sustainable lifestyle, saving money while they did so.
However, their choice created a buzz, something that they certainly had not expected was a letter from the city officials. It was demanded that they remove the vegetable garden as it was intrusive to government regulations of front yards.
Why should people, let alone children, go hungry when we can grow food in our own community for them? Any regulations or restrictions on growing a vegetable garden other than “kept and maintained” will alienate the less-fortunate. We cannot afford expensive aesthetic upgrades to our Patriot Garden ~ Jason and Jennifer Helvenston
The Helvenston’s were astounded and refused to follow the order. Deciding to take action, they circulated a petition outside his polling site during their last election, in an effort to change the rules. Mr Helverston told a local TV station “You’ll take my house before you take my vegetable garden.”
Orlando’s code dictates that planted shrubs “shall be a minimum of 24 inches in height” and “spaced not more than 36 inches apart,” while berms “shall not exceed a slope of 3:1.” There are even 295 approved and prohibited species. They claim that zoning has been put in place for health and safety reasons – but that does not seem like a viable reason to stop people from growing food on their own land.
A new zoning ordinance intended to ‘protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village,’ was put into place and specifically prohibited vegetables from appearing in front yards.
Jason and Jennifer Helvenston were being fined $500 a day for having a vegetable garden in their front yard.
The following quote is from a press release by the Institute for Justice:
When news of the story initially broke in early November, the city appeared inclined to help the Helvenstons navigate the city’s outdated ordinances while still being able to keep their garden. A special “task force” was created to consider amending the law to allow for front yard gardens. But as deadline after deadline was postponed, it has become evident that such tactics have simply allowed the city to delay its enforcement. Despite assurances from the city that the Helvenstons would be able to keep their garden or that the code would be updated to allow for some sort of compromise, there has been no official statement from the city that either will occur.
Fortunately the Helvenston’s won their fight with the government and the city of Orlando has now withdrawn their demands for the vegetable patch to be removed.
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