Thanks to the flu, i missed our meeting with the neighborhood commissioner this afternoon, but Liz was there with a listening ear, and a bunch of questions. Overall, the meeting didn’t shed much light on any regulations in question as the commissioner wasn’t familiar with them off hand. She stated that she’s in charge of nearly 900 homes, and we’re the first to put in a front yard garden like this one. This may intimidate someone, but we were flattered and excited at the potential!
In terms of regulations, she eased off a little bit since our first conversation. She didn’t cite any single violation, though she did mentioned that we might want to look into encroachment onto city property: which we’re not since we’re well in the bounds of our property line.
She mostly had questions for us, so Liz used the meeting to take a walk through the front yard and tell her our plans. The commissioner was surprised to hear that we were so willing to compromise with neighbors (such as put a self imposed height restriction on front yard veggies- tomatoes and trellis in the back yard), and that nearly 40% of the whole yard is planned for flowers. Liz was suprised to learn that some common complaints were about “growing corn”, “this is the city not the country”, and “what if everybody’s yard looked like that?”
If only we could be that lucky! think of it, no more lawn mowers waking me up at 7 am on the weekends, less sidewalk flooding, less water, air, and noise pollution, more birds and butterflies, more biodiversity, shorter lines at the grocery store!
The thing that go to me most was that the commissioner seemed to be fine with us planting only flowers, even in the raised beds (which she initially had issues with)! What about squash, tomatoes, egg plants, potatoes, beans, and just about every other vegetable? They have pretty flowers too! Frustrating!
I answered the door this afternoon, when i was more ‘with it,’ and had a nice 10 minute chat with our block captain, who also received some complaints (i think he gets called first, then passes it up the chain to the commissioner). This was a much more informative coverstaiton, and shed a lot of light on folks’ concerns.
The gist of what he said was that he knows that he can’t make me change my yard (legally), it’s just a negihborhood preference: “we like our lawns”. I told him that i appreciate where’s he’s coming from, and that, although we’re willing to compromise a little, there will be a garden in the front. He told a story about a person up the street put in a small garden in the front and grew corn, and how that really had the block in a tizzy a few years back.
No wonder everyone’s terrified of our project: they think we’re turning the yard into an 8 foot tall cornfield! Not that we shouldn’t be allowed to…but we’re not going to.
Overall, it seems that we’re OK to do what we’re doing, just that people are hesitant to the change, and being protective of the neighborhood and home values. This is understandable: we’re very new to the neighborhood and what we’re doing to the yard is quite different. I think it’s all about trying to find a balance. Just like you have to balance what nutrients go into a garden bed, we’ll try to find balance in this situation!
To help that process, we’re going to put a few notices and a suggestion/comments box on the front garden wall. I’ll show you what we come up with next time…