visit from Municipal Law Enforcement officer

Discussion in 'Gardening for Backyard Biodiversity in Canada' started by Ken Scheffler, Jun 25, 2014.

  1. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    We received a visit from an MLE today. The issue apparently was a small area of lawn that I've allowed to grow to full length (c. 30 to 45 cm) and about two square meters of yarrow. He also claimed that there are issues in the backyard, but wouldn't specify. He claims that the grass (if over 21 cm) and yarrow constitute "weeds". The grass has been in its current state for just the last few weeks - the yarrow has been growing out front for about a decade, without issue. He insisted that I was not to grow a wildflower garden, and that he would not have an issue with what I'm doing if this was out in the country. Yet "what I am doing" has in recent years has attracted new species of birds and butterflies. I use no chemical and minimal watering. I thought this city was all about getting ecofriendly. I guess not. What's more, we live a few hundred meters away from the Royal Botanical Gardens - right at the end of the street there is a small patch of land that they're "restoring" (at what cost), yet here I am being made out to be a CRIMINAL for essentially doing the same thing...
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I'm thinking somebody on your street complained, hard to believe anyone official would take the time otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Do contact the person at RBG responsible for the restoration project and see if they can help give you some support/recognition (perhaps an extension of the restoration project involving homeowners?). Also, the Canadian Wildlife Federation has a homeowner wildlife certification program you might want to consider as a way to give yourself some external recognition of your efforts (which may bolster your cause in bureaucratic dealings).

    Ultimately, though, you'll need to advocate the city/municipality to update its bylaws to coincide with its stated beliefs. The bylaw is probably still on the books from the 1950s when "better living through chemistry" and manicured lawns in urban areas became the norm.

    The MLE does have to enforce the laws that are on the books, particularly if someone complains.
     
  4. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    Thank you Ron and Daniel for your replies. I will certainly look into that. I will admit that my gardening will never win any awards and my enthusiasm waxes and wanes when it comes to dealing with certain issues. But some of the plants that I've let grow in the backyard have only been for the sake of seeing what they were, and were going to be cleared out eventually. In fact the other day I cleared out a patch of weeds/dead poppies (all my poppies save one wilted and died before blooming, which was a major disappointment - I was going to use the seeds in the offending "weed" grass patch to see if I could start a small "poppy field"). I have to admit that I was pretty upset with the officer, which, he claimed, forced him to have to write me up. He was in his car for some time and came back with a form filled with a few entries, so I'm assuming that he spent much of the time "on the phone" relating how difficult I was being. Now, I hesitate to add this: about an hour later a police care with the designation "SUPERVISOR" on the side was parked directly in front of our house. It could have been a coincidence, but whatever the case it certainly didn't improve my mood all that much...

    edit to add:
    The one point I actually wanted to make: without going into specifics, I pointed out several issues on nearby properties - one a case of neglect that has been going on for years. The officer looked at me and said something to the effect of: what's "aesthetically pleasing" for some people, isn't for others. Oh, Really?
     
  5. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    Also I want to make it clear that I never made any threats or threatening gestures towards the officer.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Shall I look for you on the network news?

    With 60% of single family residences being rentals a lot of properties around here have poor lawns, but some neighborhoods are more fancy than others. And then there is the HOA system...
     
  7. Charles Philip

    Charles Philip Active Member

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    Some people have such strange relationships with plants, hate some, tolerate others, love lawns. It's quite weird really. You just like to watch different plants grow, Im with you man. Any chance we could get pictures???
     
  8. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    I don't think this will escalate any further. I've contacted my ward councillor about the matter.

    Could take a few photos and upload them. I'm certainly going to document the follow-up visit from the MLE officer, which I regret not doing yesterday. I would love to have the "aesthetically pleasing" remark on record, as well as proof of the police car parked out front a short while after his visit.
     
  9. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    As an ex property manager: I encountered some bylaw nonsense directed at a perfectly respectable, decent tenant family (I think it was an ethnicity issue) at one time. It involved the parking of a small licensed motorhome in a suburban driveway. I went round the neighhbourhood with the tenant and documented about 6 properties within a block that had an unlicensed car/boat/RV in the driveway. I then wrote a letter to bylaw dept. saying that if they pursued this issue I was going to lay complaints against the addresses I listed....we never heard any more about it :)
     
  10. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    I'm fairly certain that there's more to this, namely class. Ethnicity may play a role in this too, but I won't even start to get into that. I've had to deal with it for years, in particular when going through the schools here.

    Now I'm not sure what and whatnot I can do with the property. Apparently I can't try and introduce native plant species because the City will arbitrarily deem them to be weeds. I think I'm going to start cutting everything back and just go with a regular bleak lawn.
     
  11. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    Attached is the photo that the MLE officer took. It's difficult to see the distinction between the long grass on the slope and the maintained grass on the upper area. Also if my plans were to have been carried through the "weed" grass area would contain several wildflowers. The yarrow is on the upper right. The was also to transplant some of the "wildflowers" from along the house forward and introduce other species. Eventually much or all of the lawn was to go. Now after I cut the tall grass I will simply maintain the status quo and do bare minimum upkeep. If there is still a problem, it all comes out and it will be lawn corner to corner - which I'm assuming the anonymous informant would really prefer.
     

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  12. ponderoni

    ponderoni Active Member

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    Tell me again why this "anonymous informant" has all the power?
    My blood pressure is rising already.

    My wife heard an ex-neighbour derogatorily refer to our yard as "Vietnam". (They split up and he moved into a condo (which he was looking forward to).)
    The new neighbours, by contrast, were upset when I had to cut down a dying apricot tree the other day. A gentler set of values.
    The neighbours on the other side are (I'm sure) propagating Morning Glory in our cedar hedge. Guess where else the MG springs up.

    Neighbours. Sometimes we're blessed. Sometimes, ... not so much.

    Hang in there.
     
  13. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    Well the grass has been cut. Hopefully the issue has now been resolved, but I somehow doubt it. The complaint was allegedly about the grass out front, but the officer decided to tack on the backyard as well - when I asked what the problem was, he stated that it was the "same as the front". To the best of my knowledge he never looked in the backyard, and if he had then he would have known that what there is in the way of grass in the back yard was cut (I had cut it about a week earlier). What also bothers me is he decreed that I wasn't going to have a wildflower garden. As far as I know it's not within his mandate to be dictating what type of gardens people are allowed to have. He was also very charming in saying that I would be allowed to have the "whole long weekend" to deal with this, and symbolically made July 1 - Canada Day - the deadline. While watching Canada Day celebrations today a number of people when asked what makes Canada so great responded with the word "freedom". Certainly not what I've been feeling. The City replied to the complaint that I sent to my councillor, and they claim that the issue is the grass alone. We'll see. I've started to cut back a lot in the backyard now - maybe I'll just get rid of it all - but it's been sweltering this weekend and the going has been slow. If my gardening is going to be subject to the anonymous dictates of neighbours/passers by, then what's the point?
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Put up a fence.
     
  15. ponderoni

    ponderoni Active Member

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    Or pave over the lawn.
    Paint parking stalls on it.
    When your neighbours or your friendly MLE ask, just quote that Joni Mitchell song,
    "...pave Paradise, put up a parking lot."
     
  16. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    I've thought of putting up a fence, but that might also cause problems. Also considered stone, perhaps heather, or even some sort of "ornamental" grass. Apparently it's okay to have tall grasses if they're in clumps and ringed by mulch - one small continuous strip however somehow makes the grass a "weed" and hence an eyesore...

    In researching this issue it amazes me some of the antics that these bylaw officers engage in and the power they have to infringe upon a homeowner/occupant's liberties.
     
  17. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Due to a neighbor claiming access rights to a 1' strip of my land adjacent to a fence he is taking forever to erect, resultant unauthorized cutting of shrubs and spraying of herbicide by his wife some feet onto my lot I checked with both my City and my attorney. The City had no knowledge of any such right being granted by any City ordinance, and my attorney said no city any time any where under any circumstances would ever grant such rights. So you may wish to review the rules there to make sure that what you are being subjected to is in fact legal.
     
  18. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Can you tell the MLE that there is a protected bird nesting in the grass, and that it would be illegal to disturb it?
     
  19. Ken Scheffler

    Ken Scheffler Member

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    Apparently I have no rights so nothing I say matters.
     
  20. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Apparently - or certainly, as determined by your having spoken to someone in a position to know other than the enforcement officer?
     
  21. Forester1344

    Forester1344 New Member

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    You should check out this guy in LA who started a project call Grow Some Shit. Ron Finley I think his name is. Anyways he's started a movement in LA, planting fruits and veggies in the random patches of grass that belong to no one (or the government). But he's actually changed some laws and had similar problems to you.
     
  22. thanrose

    thanrose Active Member

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    A couple of MIA posters on this old thread... good memories.

    Anyhow, forester, this inequitable enforcement happens anyplace there are many people and many laws and regs. Another long ago correspondent here was in Ecuador and she claimed that no one interfered too much with your garden choices. She was surprised by my contention that I could be arrested for guerilla gardening Masanubo Fukuoka style in my area.

    My ex is a forager of some note and he's had code enforcement people visit his wild yet suburban home property numerous times. Went to court on it at least once. His defense was the law stated "unintentional" growth beyond a certain height when his was intentional. He ate one of the problematic plants in front of the judge...

    The possible best use of guerrilla gardening for urban dwellers is to plant seed or roots in the undeveloped verges of commercial properties. A few apple trees on the edge of a local park, perennial native wildflowers in the field backing up to a mall, a mulberry on the fenceline of neglected property. Still, you need to know the area and what could be problematic all the way around. It's not just about our individual rights, but the rights of the property owner, the potential of the plant matter, the aspect of creating an attractive nuisance. If you plant a plum tree in the park, and a kid breaks an ankle picking plums, who is liable? If you plant stabilizing grasses in a sandhill area, are you hurting or helping nesting birds or burrowing creatures, and are you making it harder for the owner to develop the land if the broken ankle kid finds a rare burrowing bird? And introducing even benign species can have long lasting repercussions.
     
  23. Forester1344

    Forester1344 New Member

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    "He ate one of the problematic plants in front of the judge..."

    Lol that is hilarious! Good tips also =D
     

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