As I was perusing news headlines this morning, I came across an article from Time Moneyland about the City of Oak Park in Michigan. As a Michigander myself, this story caught my attention. At the outset, it’s important for everyone to understand that Oak Park is not a homeowners’ association. I repeat Oak Park is not a homeowners’ association. And all I can say about that is what a relief!
So here’s the scoop: It seems that Oak Park has an ordinance that prohibits folks from planting vegetable gardens in front yards. Violation of this ordinance can result in 90-plus days of incarceration. Evidently, a woman by the name of Julie Bass needed to re-landscape her front yard. Prior to starting work, she allegedly went to the City to tell them that she intended to plant a vegetable garden. The City told her that planting this garden would be against code and advised her not to proceed. Evidently, Ms. Bass thumbed her nose at the city and went ahead with planting. The City issued a warning to Ms. Bass which was ignored. The City then charged her with a violation and told her that she could be held to account for her actions – which could involve incarceration. Has Ms. Bass been thrown in the slammer yet? That’s unclear.
What is clear is that with the exception of potential jail time, this story sounds eerily similar to residents of homeowners’ associations who thumb their nose at covenants and architectural guidelines. While some associations may wish they had the option to jail owners who act like petulant children, these communities must utilize remedies like fines and court action to compel compliance. Oak Park might want to consider these remedies before resorting to incarceration.
If Oak Park does throw Ms. Bass in jail for her garden, I think that action would be an outstanding candidate for Anderson Cooper’s RidicuList! Just sayin’ . . .