Where Should a Property Owner's Rights End?

Is a vegetable garden too unsightly to be allowed in a front yard?

An Orlando man is fighting City Hall to be allowed to keep his vegetable garden.

According to a story in ClickOrlando.com, Jason Helvingston’s garden is not up to city code. They want him to dig it up.

City code reportedly requires ground covers to be planted in a way that keeps up the appearance of the neighborhood and maintains the property values.

The City of Orlando says Helvingston's garden doesn't measure up. He has collected signatures from neighbors who support his garden and plans to appeal.

He goes back before the city next month.

In Sarasota County, like most jurisdictions, Code Enforcement can remove "excessive vegetation," but Orlando is focusing on the fact that the garden is in the front yard.

Here's what Sarasota County Code defines as excessive vegetation:

Excessive Growth shall mean the uncontrolled growth of vegetation that:


Is not cultivated or regularly tended;


Has reached a height in excess of twelve (12) inches;


Is or may reasonably become infested by pests;


May create a fire or safety hazard;


May tend to decrease the value of neighboring properties;


Tends to decrease the value of the property on which the prohibited excessive growth occurs.

Excessive growth includes vegetation having the characteristics described above and growing from private lands into or across public rights-of-way, utility easements, sidewalks, drainage ditches, swales, or streets. Excessive growth does not include the following provided they do not constitute a fire, safety, or health hazard:


Shrubs, trees, palms or bushes (natural or cultivated) that are used for landscape purposes or are not otherwise subject to conventional mowing;


Vegetation located on a lot which is either in a natural state or has not been mowed within the past five years;


Vegetation located more than two hundred (200) feet from the boundary line of another improved property, street, or public right-of-way;


Tended, natural landscaping;


The understory of hammocks that are protected through development regulations, conditions, or agreements, and vegetation within wetlands and stormwater retention lake littoral zones; or


Vegetation which extends across private property lines.

In the meantime, the city wants him to comply with an order to dig up the garden and bring his front yard up to code.

So what do you think? Does a government entity have the right to tell a property owner that his vegetable garden is not attractive enough for the neighborhood?

(Thanks to Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch)

Richard M. Swier November 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM
It is the governments role to protect the property owner at all costs. Failure to do so is an abrogation of our elected officials duties. The control or taking of property without due process violates the basis of our republican form of government.
Willyone November 13, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Holy Crap if this is a real issue we are all screwed. I remember growing up where every other neighbor had a garden, front or back nobody cared. As long as the garden is tended to the city government should stay the hell out and off of the tax payed for property.
Elizabeth November 19, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Change the Sarasota County Code, if necessary! ! ! Is a "uniform image" more important than a homeowners rights? I wholeheartedly applaud anyone who puts forth the effort to grow a garden. Can we respect each other's individuality - and STOP THE INSANITY ! We have real problems in this world to deal with.


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