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Oak Park Woman Faces 93-Days in Jail For Planting Vegetable Garden
<Click Here To Listen To Broadcast Interview With Julie Bass> by ALEXIS WILEY WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com OAK PARK, Mich. (WJBK) – “The price of organic food is kind of through the roof,” said Julie Bass. So, why not grow your own? However, Bass’ garden is a little unique because it’s in her front yard. “We thought it’d be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see.
The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help,” she said. Bass’ cool garden has landed her in hot water with the City of Oak Park. Code enforcement gave her a warning, then a ticket and now she’s been charged with a misdemeanor. “I think it’s sad that the City of Oak Park that’s already strapped for cash is paying a lot of money to have a prosecutor bothering us,” Bass told FOX 2’s Alexis Wiley.
“That’s not what we want to see in a front yard,” said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski. Why? The city is pointing to a code that says a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material. The big question is what’s “suitable?”
We asked Bass whether she thinks she has suitable, live, plant material in her front yard. “It’s definitely live. It’s definitely plant. It’s definitely material. We think it’s suitable,” she said. So, we asked Rulkowski why it’s not suitable.
“If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster’s dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers,” he said. But when you look at front yards that are unsightly and overgrown, is Bass’ vegetable garden really worth the city’s time and money?
We asked Rulkowski what he would say to those who feel this is ridiculous. “I would argue that you won’t find that opinion from most people in Oak Park,” he responded. “I have a bunch of little children and we take walks to come by and see everything growing. I think it’s a very wonderful thing for our neighborhood,” said neighbor Devorah Gold.
“They don’t have (anything) else to do (if) they’re going to take her to court for a garden,” said neighbor Ora Goodwin.
We did find one neighbor who wasn’t a fan and thinks it needs to go. “I know there’s a backyard. Do it in the backyard,” he said. “They say, ‘Why should you grow things in the front?’ Well, why shouldn’t I? They’re fine. They’re pretty. They’re well maintained,” said Bass.
It looks like this critical debate is headed for a jury trial and neither side is backing down. “I could sell out and save my own self and just not have them bother me anymore, but then there’s no telling what they’re going to harass the next person about,” Bass told us. There’s another pretrial scheduled for July 26. The next step could be a jury trial.