Real Estate & Property Law

Front Yard Gardener Gets Support from the Institute for Justice


As the sustainability movement grows in popularity, gardeners who choose to grow their own food in their front yards are facing objections from communities that regulate landscaping choices.

In Orlando, for example, shrubs must be a minimum of 24 inches in height and spaced not more than 36 inches apart, the New York Times reports. There are 295 approved and banned plant species.

Orlando resident Jason Helvenston ran afoul of that law when he planted his garden last Super Bowl Sunday, opting for the front yard to get better sun exposure. He was cited for a code violation and told to comply by Nov. 7. He refused, joining a number of front-yard gardeners who say city codes are too restrictive.

“Though rooted in something as innocuous as vegetables,” the Times says, “these disputes touch on divisive issues like homeowner rights, property values, sustainability, food integrity and the aesthetics of the traditional American lawn. Ecologists and libertarians alike have gotten into the debate, the latter asserting that the codification of gardens is just one more way the government tells people how to live.”

Helvenston is getting legal advice from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm based in Arlington, Va. “It’s the micromanagement of land that invades your liberty in a thousand small ways,” institute lawyer Jeff Rowes tells the Times.

Orlando is revising its landscape code to promote sustainability and flexibility, and may adopt new standards for front-yard gardens. One idea is to require those with front-yard gardens to install a fence. Helvenston doesn’t like the proposal. “A fence is expensive,” he told the Times. “Now you just ruined my return on investment.”

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