Friday, July 15, 2011

Jail Time for Gardening on Your Own Land?

A little while back I noticed an article in Grist about how Julie Bass a Michigan woman was being threatened with jail time for gardening in her front yard, yeah you read that correctly: in her own front yard.  Thankfully that case was dismissed, but Ms. Bass still has to go to court, check out this video and it is clear that it was suburban lawn fascists behind this stupidity.

The more upsetting case for me is that of the Becker's organic garden in Lantzville on Vancouver Island.  As a Canadian I find this kind of insane petty, counter productive, political harassment to be, well quite frankly disgusting.  You see the picture above. The before picture is what the Becker's backyard looked like before they planted their garden which is pictured on the right.  The barren dirt scape was very much to the cities liking, the garden however, not so much. According to the Mayor and his henchmen in the regional district of Nanaimo the Becker's had:

"90 days to cease all agricultural activity… Your property is zoned Residential 1, which allows residential use and Home Based Business only"

What? You can't garden vegetables and flowers on your own property in the thriving urban metropolis of Lantzville? I've only been to Vancouver island once, I went to Victoria, which is barely a city and very sleepy, Lantzville is well, from this New Yorkers point of view: rural.  It's what you would drive  4 hours to go to from the city on the weekend if you could.  So you could spend your weekend gardening and growing food and making dinners and having quality time with your friends and family.  Apparently not something that is encouraged by the Mayor and City Council of Lantzville.
Get this the Mayor's complaint against the Becker's is that the land as pictured in the after picture is "unsightly" therefore they were slapped with Lantzville's "unsightly premises" bylaw.

Further more:

Lantzville’s bylaw 60 and as it is written, residentially zoned properties cannot “grow crops”. It doesn’t address selling, just growing crops. Vegetable gardens are crops, so as the bylaw now reads, in essence, people on residentially zoned property cannot grow food (emphasis added).

You couldn't make this kind of crazy shit up if you tried.

And the best part of about this story?  Before the Beckers spent years rehabilitating the land, the previous owner:

...used an excavator and dump truck to mine and scrape the land bare. He had a soil screener set up on the property, selling the soil, then sand, then gravel, which resulted in lowering the level of the property by about four feet.

This has become quite the news story not only in Canada but all over the world.   If you want to read more about the Becker's journey with Mayor Ruttan of Nanimo and their fight to be able to garden on their own property then please check out their story here.

You have to wonder who is really behind the fight to prevent people from growing their own food?  Is it really just some rogue Mayor or is he being supported by large corporations who have a vested interest in maintaining a status quo where 95% of the food available on Vancouver Island is imported, mostly from California?  I'd like to see a list of who Mayor Ruttan's campaign donors were.  It's also not just some random couple that Mayor Ruttan has picked on he has chosen the couple who have helped create Bowen Road Farmers Market and publish Synergy Magazine.   Is it just me or does this sound like something more than an overly zealous small town Mayor enforcing cryptic bylaws? 
 If you feel as outraged by this insanity as I do you could email or phone the Mayor's Office and demand for him to immediately stop enforcing this bylaw/ordinance until it can be to changed, drop all charges and award the Beckers a settlement for their lost time, expenses and the harassment they have suffered at the hands of Mayor John Ruttan  et al.

 I can't help but mention that Mayor John Ruttan is originally from Alaska.  Just saying.

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