Nanny State

Enjoy This Lovely Photo of a Garden That Might Not Be Around Tomorrow


Jason Sorens, a friend of mine and (as far as a know) an upstanding citizen of the Town of Tonawanda, New York, is a gardener. He prefers a style known as native gardening in which a freeform collection of indigenous shrubs, vines, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses take the place of labor intensive lawns or cultivated flowerbeds. It looks like this:

pretty weeds


The Town of Tonawanda is not impressed by his aesthetic choices, so it responded with this:


Since any friend of mine should reasonably be suspected of considering civil disobedience to weed ordinances a fun way to spend a weekend, I should note that Sorens also received a notice about something that might theoretically have something to do with public safety—the five-foot shrubs around his driveway might obstruct drivers' vision and must be cut to three feet—and he says he will cheerfully comply. In other words, he's not an anti-social jerk. He's just a guy who like a certain kind of plants in his garden.

Meanwhile, the town code officer messed up in a bunch of ways, including giving Sorens insufficient notice. This kind of thing happens all the time and Sorens is a resourceful guy, so he will probably save his garden from a town-supplied haircut tomorrow (for which he would be billed, by the by)—especially since, as he explains in his blog post, his "weed or plant growth" is not in violation of the ordinance as it appears in the town's code.

But others haven't been lucky, so Sorens has reason to be nervous:

I believe I am on firm legal ground. The concern, however, is that the town will come and mow down my gardens without due process. This has happened all over the country and in Canada. Here's one example from Illinois, and here's another from Toronto. The Environmental Protection Agency even provides advice to homeowners on fighting their town governments!

Sorens is hopeful that the town will see the light with the help of a little media attention and some public pressure.

NEXT: Entrepreneurs Under Attack

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  1. If they’re going to show up with lawnmowers, perhaps he should convert it to a weed/large rock garden. And the rocks should be painted green, of course.

    1. or stake the weeds with rebar

      1. Beat me to it.

        I would liberally spike (literally) the garden with rocks, scrap metal and rebar stakes.

        Let them come and take my plants! Molon Labe.

        1. Then some nice men with guns would politely invite you to come to court and explain to a judge why you caused damage to thousands of dollars worth of city equipment.

          1. I didn’t damage their equipment; they did by running them over my lawn art. I will be filing a claim for an uncompensated taking of my property.

            1. I’m sure that the nice men with guns couldn’t give a shit.

          2. Living in that corner of New York State; I can state with certain conviction that this will happen, and they won’t be pleasant about it.

            Next door is the Town of Kenmore; someone tried the same agricultural practice there about 15 years ago and wound up having his yard butchered by a mob of angry neighbors with weed whackers and mowers. And the Kenmore cops did not want to get involved.

            About 30 minutes from the Town of Tonawanda is rural area where you can buy a house and treat your yard like a natural pasture (you can buy a house with a natural pasture for a yard) and no one will get mad at you for it. However, your philosophical persuation should be quite libertarian or stay in the City.

    2. landmines

  2. You forgot to redact the address. Now potential anti-gardening terrorists from all over the world may erupt in violent protest, endangering gardens worldwide, including Sorens’.

  3. Since any friend of mine should reasonably suspected of considering civil disobedience to weed ordinances a fun way to spend a weekend

    Run that through the translator again, please.

    1. ordinances [as] a

  4. I happen to love my lawn – its some kind of genetic flaw, as from a reasoned perspective, lawns make no sense. They use more water, more chemicals, the aesthetic is bizarre (uniform grass over natural flowers?), more expensive, and more work.
    But somehow, the idea of conformity, even though it is illogical from a resource perspective, prevails with the mandate of gubermint. It wonderfully illustrates the drawbacks of gubermint regulation – where there might be some need to address health and safety issues, but gubermint shows it can’t proceed with a lick of common sense.

    1. … lawns make no sense.

      Right, because who in their right mind would like an open, free-form but safe surface for children to play on? I mean, obviously, this is why we raise up generations of pansies. We should cover our backyards in briar and toss the little bastards in there like Briar Rabbit. That would toughen them up.

      Gardens are nice but you can’t do anything with them but look at them. They are not areas for living. Every time I see someone bragging about their xeroscaped yard in Texas, its never anyone with kids or grandchildren. Just some double-income, no kids (DINK) pretentious snot who likes to follow fads.

      Most people regard their homes as places for their families and their yards primarily as places for children to play. That is why lawns are so valued.

      1. Yawn

      2. KULTUR WAR

      3. “…double-income, no kids (DINK) pretentious snot who likes to follow fads.”

        Because we all know that adults without children are life forms inferior to the Sacred Parents (and they’re SELFISH not to have bred! SELFISH, I tell you!), and therefore all such adults should conform to the lifestyle choices of their betters.

        1. The idea of placing child-rearing and home-ownership on some lofty pedestal is idiotic. What’s sickening is that it’s codified into law through tax benefits. Having a kid and buying a house are lifestyle choices, not moral imperatives. All come with a number of opportunity costs, it should be best left for the individual to decide what is best.

          1. Having a kid is maintaining the species. Believe it or not, that’s important. More important that you neutered non-breeders.

            Fortunately, as non-breeders, your contra-survival attitude may die with you.

            1. That’s certainly one of the opportunity costs of non-breeding, and not a trivial one at that. However, it does not mean that bearing offspring should be encouraged or discouraged by government policy. It’s a personal choice whether or not to have kids and pass on your genes.

              I’m fairly certain the species will be maintained whether or not some people decide not to have kids. Punishing them for their choice or rewarding those who choose differently seems rather strange.

              1. “I’m fairly certain the species will be maintained whether or not some people decide not to have kids.” Case in point: my supposedly-gay stepson is about to become an inadvertent baby daddy. (Any hag in a storm, I guess!) So, yes, the species WILL be maintained, even if only by accident.

            2. Having a kid is maintaining the species. Believe it or not, that’s important.


              1. Because of that horrible underpopulation problem we’ve been fighting all these years, you big silly! Don’t you know about that?? It was in all the papers!

              2. Seriously, though – good question!

            3. Having a kid is maintaining the species. Believe it or not, that’s important.

              Why should I give a shit about the ‘maintaining’ of the species?

              1. What always got me about Idiocracy was the constantly missed idea that the dumb people were breeding while the ‘smart’ people were talking themselves out of it, and that this might’ve been something that we were supposed to notice.

                Most people go on about the garbage, and the stupidity, but I wondered if the point was really that intelligence can become a detriment to human survival. At the end, even after living through it, President Not Sure has only two kids. How many Upgrayyeds were there?

                It will be interesting to see what happens as evolution replaces ‘intelligence’ with the mechanism that will ensure that the species continues.

                1. Well, if intelligent people are not reproducing as much as stupid people, then I guess intelligence is not the thing that will keep our species going. Though, in the context of the animal kingdom as a whole, even really stupid people are still pretty damn intelligent.

                  1. That is the interesting part, Zeb. Intelligence got us to where we are, now it seems that intelligence is killing off the ‘smarter’ strains of humanity. A good number of those strains have adopted contra-survival rationales. Others find other things to do besides breeding–putting it off.

                    Was our great intelligence a genetic dead end?

                    And, if so, what will replace it? There do not seem to be current animal species whose fortunes are being improved by intelligence(though I have an interest in humboldt squid on that train of thought).

            4. Is the human race in danger of dying out? Was it when there were 500 million, 1 billion, 2 billion people, and lifespans were actually significantly shorter?

              Or is it just that you need somebody to pat you on the back and tell you that you’ve done us some huge fucking favor by spawning (literally)? Because your kids will pay into the Great Pyramid Scheme of SocSec, assuming they move out of your house and get jobs sometime before they’re 35?

              1. You are clearly an ephemeral, and fail to look at humanity in a larger sense.

                All of humanity inhabits the chlorophyll based encrustaion of this rock. Until that is not true, we are always in danger of dying out.

                1. All of humanity inhabits the chlorophyll based encrustaion of this rock. Until that is not true, we are always in danger of dying out.

                  A condition (1) over which I’m not likely to lose any sleep, and (2) that most likely cannot be remedied by putting MORE humans on the chlorophyll-based encrustation.

                2. You are clearly an ephemeral, and fail to look at humanity in a larger sense.

                  That’s not so much a failure as a choice.

                  The great thing about intelligence is the ability to look critically at the biological imperative and decide whether the endless treadmill of procreation is really all that valuable.

                  1. Life is not an ‘endless treadmill’, but I can see how one who thinks of it as such would find procreation without value. I am glad that your genes will find the oblivion you clearly seek.

                    1. If science creates the fountain of youth, maybe then I’d say procreation isn’t an endless treadmill. Until then, it’s a perfect analogy. You move, wear yourself out, move with progressively more effort, slow down, and eventually stop.

                    2. Azathoth, will your smug self-importance be passed on to future generations? Is that a nature or nurture thang?

                    3. I certainly hope so. It is a quality I have nurtured in my larva.

                      And, since nature is only concerned that you breed, I’m sure nature will have no problem.

                      But I don’t see it as ‘smug’ or ‘self satisfied’. I see it as well deserved condescension.

                      It takes a particularly great idiocy to argue against breeding while you are alive. Clearly, someone, somewhere, bred in order for you to be able to voice your ‘opinion’. You are the product of nature succeeding–and, as you have noted–nature finds a way, no? How is your step-grandhagspawn?

                    4. Don’t know to whom you’re referring, but I didn’t argue against breeding. I argued against breeders considering themselves higher life forms/ more-enlightened-than-the-Buddha/ otherwise superior to those who consciously choose not to breed – AND expecting those who don’t breed to conform to the breeders’ lifestyle choices, aesthetics in landscaping, etc.

                      I’m enjoying this conversation! I don’t want it to end!

                      Step-grandhagspawn is apparently not due ’til late Nov./early Dec. Thanks for asking!

        2. “Because we all know that adults without children are life forms inferior to the Sacred Parents (and they’re SELFISH not to have bred! SELFISH, I tell you!), and therefore all such adults should conform to the lifestyle choices of their betters.”

          Adults who never have children are, by definition, evolutionary failures.

          1. …and people who don’t participate in sports are athletic failures and people who don’t create art are artistic failures and people who don’t publish writing are literary failures and…

            If you believe parenthood was the “career chip” that was installed in you, go crazy! Contribution to the physical evolution of the species via procreation is not the be-all and end-all of human existence. I have a relative who never had children but helped create the “Dick & Jane” readers in the early 20th century. She helped teach generations of American kids to read…but she was, of course, an evolutionary failure by your definition.

          2. Adults who never have children are, by definition, evolutionary failures.

            Maybe not failures.

            Evolution favors that which breeds most–and works towards that end–if only indirectly. Most animals don’t think in the way humans describe thinking. Most exist via encoded behaviors–instincts–that require less energy and brain function to enact. Since this works with every other animal species, it’s highly unlikely that humans are immune to this process.

            Over time, animals grow more and more specialized to their niche. Humans have avoided a lot of this by occupying numerous niches in the ecosystem—until now. Humans are one of the most populous large animals on the planet, our niche is becoming more and more ingrained in us.

            It may be that intelligent people who don’t breed are responding to evolutionary pressure. They think too much. The ability to explain our environment to ourselves, to rationalise, can lead us up all sorts of blind alleys–alleys that don’t lead to that thing which evolution favors–breeding. So intelligence can be written out of the mix. At least, intelligence at a level that allows us to act in opposition to instinctual pressures.

            It is my stance that intelligence is something we need to keep–no matter what evolution might say. So I prefer that intelligent people breed.

          3. I’ve heard people say that.

      4. Isn’t there a porn star named Shannon Love?

      5. I got to play in the au naturel weeds in the pasture when I was a kid.

        1. I got to play in the woods behind our house on the edge of a mid-sized Midwestern city – land that remains undeveloped to this day (must be undevelopable – water table too high maybe?) complete with a creek. It was wonderful – and “ungroomed”. We created our own paths – and ventured off of them frequently.

          1. Ah, creek (read: crick) rompin’, those were the days.

      6. They are not areas for living.

        Good to know that my garden will repel both you and your snotminers. Tell me, is there anything I can plant in particular that will keep self-satisfied mommies and their spawn away from my property? Because I’ll happily install a dozen of it, whatever it is, this weekend.

        Most people regard their homes as places for their families and their yards primarily as places for children to play. That is why lawns are so valued.

        Who’s this “most people” you’re talking about, Custer? 60% of American households do NOT have young children at home.

        Just some double-income, no kids (DINK) pretentious snot who likes to follow fads.

        Yeah. Fads. Like those gardens people enjoy visiting in Europe and Japan, for instance, that people have been tending for hundreds of years. Lawdy but you’re an ignorant c*nt. Any other lifestyles you feel the need to bitch and snivel about because they aren’t built especially for da pweshus chyldwun?

        1. That weed patch is not the equivalent of the tended gardens you’re talking about.

          A garden takes a bit of work–I could have the ‘garden’ shown by not touching my yard from spring onward. A house down the street has one of these ‘gardens’. A couple of potted banana trees and some potted annuals keep them safe from the ordinance man.

          1. I could have the ‘garden’ shown by not touching my yard from spring onward.

            Uh… riiiiiight. Not quite. There is a difference, again, between random weeds allowed to proliferate with no human interference whatsoever, and native gardening – which is, in fact, gardening.

            1. There certainly is. That picture looks more like the former, though.

              1. May I ask you, aaron, what qualifies you to determine what constitutes a garden and what does not?

                If I find it aesthetically pleasing to allow long grass to grow in my yard, and take the necessary steps in order for this to happen, what would give you the right to tell me that my garden is not in fact a garden?

            2. Some of the random weeds around my house look just like the purple plants in the picture. I’ve got some that grow tall, with yellow flowers and others with bluish ones. I’ve got a potted nightshade because the purple and yellow flowers look very vivid–but it’s a weed, and would easily spread if I were to let it.

              A ‘weed garden’ can be had by allowing unchecked growth.

          2. If I want to take a dump on a patch of crab grass and call that my garden, then that is a garden.

      7. A grass lawn in Phoenix will cost you a bajillion dollars to water, and the kids still won’t play on it because it’s 120 degrees outside.

        1. And as someone who actually lives in Texas, when do you ever see anybody playing on the lawn in front of their house? When do you ever see anyone on it, other than the Hispanic landscape guy? Most months, the heat index is usually over 100, and fire ants are endemic. Kids are playing: at the pool, the ballpark, soccer fields, etc… I just never see any of them on their front yard seas of St. Augustine.

          If you want a lawn, fine. And I don’t want to live next to a house so overgrown that it becomes prime rat and mouse habitat—a nuisance interfering with my quiet enjoyment. But short of that, keep the guys with the badges and guns away from my lawn care decisions.

          1. And I don’t want to live next to someone who is up mowing the lawn at 8:00 AM every saturday.

            However it is not my business what someone else does on or with their property, so if I ever find myself in that situation, I will either deal with it, or move.

          2. I moved from PA to TX when I was a kid. St. Augustine grass was the bane of my youth. It’s a vile weed marketed as “grass” by the military-lawn complex.

      8. This is a load of crap. There are options for a yard that meet these requirements but don’t have the same problems as a lawn. I have friends that decided to eschew a rear lawn in favor of bark mulch, you know the stuff that they put on playgrounds for kids. The small children were wearing out the lawn and it was way to much effort to keep it green so the opted for low maintenance. If you must have green, there are grasses that require much less water than typical turf grasses you just keep the length a little longer. It’s still totally safe, but you can’t practice your putting on it. The lawn is for the children right not your golf game. There are also alternative plants like yarrow that can be used as a lawn substitute. But of course all this is besides the point because kids will play anywhere with their wonderful imaginations. Give them a forest, a meadow, or a chaparral hillside and they will play. Sure, there may be a risk of a child falling down by tripping on a tree root, but how safe are you trying to make life for your kids.

        Lawns are so valued because it taps into a tradition of nostalgia based in the pituresque movement in English landscape. The lawn is a miniature recreation of those pastoral landscapes. This is a major reason why the front yard setback is so important. It is difficult to maintain the illusion of vast fields of green when the homes don’t sit back from the street by at least 15 feet with a nice green lawn.

    2. synthetic grass is the answer to all of your problems. I gaze lovingly on my synthetic patch every morning, and I never have to do anything to it to keep it looking prisine and green…

      1. What if a dog shits on it?

        1. Scoops right off. I have two large dogs who crap on it regularly, and I just scoop it up. They surely piss on it equally regularly, but it drains through the holes in the backing, and it never seems to smell.

          It is also easy to rinse with a hose, if needed. I haven’t ever had to, since the occasional Arizona rain seems to suffice to keep it green and clean. I do rake it occasionally to get leaves off of it and to make it stand up nicely.

          The stuff is a miracle surface.

        2. It has subterranean turrets to deal with burglars or dogs.

      2. Here in California we have cities with ordinances prohibiting artificial lawns. Residents who have installed them have “run afoul of local odrinance police.”

        They get you either way, but then that is the point.

        1. or “ordinance police”

        2. I nefariously avoided any such issue by rolling out the synthetic only in my back yard. The front is a nice rocky desert scene just like the association likes…

      3. Doesn’t it increase the air temp by like 10F? I remember hearing about some college football players getting severe burns on the stuff from having to do crawls across it. Apparently surface temp varies greatly from the air temp increase. But I wouldn’t mind hearing a firsthand account of those properties. Does wetting it solve any potential heat issues?

    3. You seem to have a different definition of lawn than I do, fresnodan. If it is green and you can mow it, it is a lawn. And if it dries out, great, less mowing.

      And in forested or fire prone areas, lawns also provide a firebreak and keep the house dry.

  5. But if you have the kind of garden you want, potential buyers of my property viewing the neighborhood might lower the purchase price they offer me for my house. You’re costing me money if you don’t behave in a way that maximizes the value of MY property!

    Oh wait, I had a psychotic episode and thought I was John for a second. Never mind.

    1. I really hope that John comes in here and tries to defend the whole “affecting perceived market value of something in a negative manner is the same thing as stealing” again.

      I actually had a Republican friend of mine get extremely upset at me for advocating that people underwater should walk away from their homes. The idea is that by walking away they are reducing the value of other peoples homes and this is theft or force or morally wrong…

      1. Conservative “free market” math: anything that affects my personal worth is stealing, so force is now justified in maintaining that value.

        1. We used to deal with this issue using covenants. When people bought property, they had to sign a contract obligating them to maintain a standard agreed upon by the surrounding property owners. If you didn’t have a covenant you could do what you wanted. On the other hand, so could your neighbors and you could end up next door to a tannery. Therefore, most people accepted the tradeoffs inherent in the covenants. If you didn’t like a properties existing covenant, you bought land elsewhere.

          Back in the 60s covenants where largely outlawed and the powers of enforcement where moved from private contracts to government regulation. Now instead of taking you to court for breaking a contract you voluntarily designed, your neighbors send the SWAT team after you for planting tulips instead of roses.

          This is called social progress.

          1. Shannon, where the hell did you get your history from?

            Zoning ordinances preventing tanneries from going in right next to residential areas and vice-versa go back about 100 years in the U.S., at least. I can show you court cases challenging the constitutionality of zoning laws from the early 1900’s.

            Neighborhood covenants are just about as old and have never gone away. In fact, if anything, the use of restrictive covenants has increased tremendously in the past 20-30 years. So now you have to deal with both, in most suburban areas, along with all kinds of code enforcement issues.

            1. Shannon doesn’t do history; it does “conservative nostalgia history”, which is very, very different.

            2. Shannon, where the hell did you get your history from?

              Someplace dark, brown, and smelly.

              Not Lower Wacker Drive, either.

          2. If you didn’t like a properties existing covenant, you bought land elsewhere.

            Yeah! Nothin but a bunch of complainers, the lot of you. Go start your own damn town if you don’t want to be told how to keep your lawn.

            1. Since no one else has said it:

              GET OFF MY LAWN.

            2. Why start a town? My wife and I bought property at the end of a dead-end road where nobody can see our house and yard. I mow around the house a couple of times a summer to keep the briars and Spanish needles down, but other than that we find it very easy to suppress our tendency to prevent plants from growing as high as god intended.

              Of course I realize this solution is not for everybody. The supply of building sites at the ends of dead-end roads is not endless.

        2. I’m pretty sure that was the exact logic used by National Review-types when they supported the bailout. It’s just more evidence that the entire conservative movement is completely devoid of principles or platform. At least liberals are consistent in their support for state intrusion and theft.

          1. Oh, conservatives are just as consistent. They just keep saying they’re not. Like the way liberals keep saying they’re for civil liberties.

        3. They’re confused, but I don’t think this point is entirely clear in libertarian philosophy either.

          There needs to be some better distinction between what sort of harms can be legitimately restricted by the state, and what are incidental. Such as harms that are solely a result of subjective perception. There needs to be some physical component to the damage to your person or property to claim redress.

      2. John is perhaps busy planning his Dancing With the Stars Bristol Palin Edition Party.

        1. She does have nice tits so it’s cool.

      3. The idea is that by walking away they are reducing the value of other peoples homes and this is theft or force or morally wrong

        Well, that or its because they have an insane idea that people should comply with the contracts they sign and that if we establish a pattern that people can morally default at their convenience, very few people will be able to borrow capital for any reason.

        How much of your own money would you loan to someone you knew had no compunction against defaulting if it convenient for them to do so?

        1. The contracts have clauses that cover defaults.

          I don’t have any moral issues with parties that walk away from contractual obligations. If the contract doesn’t have appropriate penalties for doing so, than the fault lies in the contract writer.

          1. Fostering economic honor is an important thing. Culture matters. Cultures that value making an honest effort to meet contractual obligations are more free and prosperous than those that don’t.

            In general, cultures with high degrees of trust have smaller, less invasive governments. When people don’t trust each other, they tend to turn to the state to protect them. You can see this even in America. People in Red zones trust each other more than people in Blue zones. Blue zones have large invasive governments as result.

            The world you favor is one of nitpicking bureaucracy wherein every single conceivable action is detailed in every contract. What could have been handled with a handshake must then be codified into a massive tome.

            1. Trust works right up to the point when it doesn’t. That’s when you become more cognizant of seeking protection.

              Trust, but verify.

            2. And the world you favor is one where some abstract moral concept of “honor” is codified into law.

              Agree to the contract if you like it; if you don’t then renogotiate. If you fail to come to agreeable terms, walk away. The only place honor has is in abiding the terms of the contract, which is what every foreclosed homeowner has done by giving the house to the bank.

              1. No, the actual contract itself, its strict literal terms, are the only ones that should be enforced by the violence-based coercive power of the state.

                I just note that fostering a culture of economic dishonor makes contracts increasingly complex and their signatories quicker to sue. This in turn will inevitably lead to increasing state involvement in private affairs.

                A culture in which most people will make significant sacrifices fulfill contracts is a world in which people find it easier to enter into contracts and gain the benefits thereby.

                I know that business history is nearly a non-existent field but you should read up on the relationship between moral beliefs and business. Throughout history successful commercial cultures are those that have fostered a powerful sense of economic honor.

                1. Perhaps the lenders should not have been so ready to enter into those contracts with such risky debtors and hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to them.

                  1. Perhaps the lenders should not have been so ready…

                    But but but, Uncle Sugar told em it would all “be cool”!

        2. How much of your own money would you loan to someone you knew had no compunction against defaulting if it convenient for them to do so?

          From what I understand, the house is generally considered collateral for the mortgage. In this case, the value of the collateral fell much below the value of the mortgage, so it makes financial sense to use the terms of the contract, give up the collateral, and walk away.

          There is absolutely nothing immoral about this. People break contracts when it’s convenient for them all the time. That’s why contracts have terms for ending them, and those are the terms that the parties came to in a mutually agreed transaction.

          1. The problem is that interest rates are set based on a statistical assumption of the rate of default. The market will rationalize this after the fact but not before. The modeling of the rate of default is itself based on cultural expectations of how hard people will work to fulfill contracts.

            When examining any system one of the biggest rookie mistake one can make is assuming that the formal and easily observable parts of the system are the controlling ones. If you ever worked in a large organization, you should know that the formal org chart usually bears little resemblance to how things actually get done in the organization. Legal systems are the same way. There is a penumbra of cultural assumptions surrounding all contracts in any culture.

            By undermining the culture of economic honor, you change the rate of default and therefore increase the interest rate. You make it harder for people to get capital and therefore harder to increase productivity and overall wealth.

            You can have the hostile, suspicious world you desire where everyone assume that everyone else will do everything in their power to escape contractual obligations. However, you will have to accept the tradeoffs of such a system. Those tradeoffs are decrease prosperity and an eventual increase in state power.

            1. The problem is that interest rates are set based on a statistical assumption of the rate of default.

              So what? Companies that lend based on a faulty model deserve to reap what they sow. Whether that model is using historical default rates or a fucking palm reader is irrelevant. If the risk is too much for them, then don’t enter the market.

              By undermining the culture of economic honor, you change the rate of default and therefore increase the interest rate.

              If the total cost of continuing the contract is greater than the loss involved in canceling the agreement then people will cancel the contract. Conditions in the world change rapidly, if you aren’t creative or intelligent enough to have a business model that reflects that or can write up contracts to address that, then tough shit. It’s not a hostile world, it’s a rapidly changing one and if your legions of economists and MBAs can’t come up with a decent risk model then maybe you should re-evaluate.

          2. break contracts when it’s convenient for them all the time

            Indeed. It is known as “efficient breach.”

            If it will cost me more to stay in the contract than to breach it, I might well choose to breach it and pay the damages.

            Keep in mind that people who “walk away” from a mortgaged property do not get off scot-free. They have destroyed credit and are now homeless. They likely have dumped a fair amount of money into the property themselves, which they also have lost. The lender might try to pursue a collection action, but the debtor likely is judgment proof at that point anyhow.

            The lender of course valued the house at the beginning, and took the calculated risk that the borrower would default or the market value would decline. The lender then through foreclosure ends up with the property, which it can try to sell to offset its damages. If that is insufficient, it can pursue an action against the defaulting borrower, if he’s got anything left.

        3. Shannon,

          Do you feel the same way about terminating a cell phone contract early?

          1. Yes, a contract is a contract.

            Cell phone companies use contracted usage to plan their hardware requirements for bandwidth. That is why 10 years ago cell phone contracts where so rigid. The companies had to have some means of measuring how much cell phone signal traffic they would have to manage and how they would deal with it. Technological change has loosened that requirement.

            Of course, people have always been able to pay for instant termination services if they wanted to. It just that people didn’t want to pay the premium necessary to cover the cost of hardware needed to provide that service.

            People who casually violate contracts like cell phone contracts are economic free-riders. They are trying to get the low cost of service that comes from allowing the phone company to make long term plans without the restrictions of locking themselves in. The people who pay for that are those that do keep the contracts.

            Like all free rider problems, the benefit provided to the free-rider only occurs by transferring wealth from those that don’t ride free. Eventually, the free-riders bring the system down to everyone’s detriment.

            1. You’re talking about the concept of RISK. And, believe or not, that’s how a lot of businesses make money – by taking calculated risks and losing only a minority of the time.

              1. Having a culture in which people have no moral compunctions about not fulfilling contracts elevates RISK and everyone pays for it.

                The contract that business will give you is dependent on their statistical assessment of the likelihood that you will fulfill your part of the contract and they can make money. The more people that feel okay walking away from contracts, the higher the business risk per contract and the more they charge everyone to enter into a contract with them.

                The invention of capitalism is really the story of learning to reduce risk by building trust between people who had surplus resources and those who could put those resources to use. Having a culture of economic honor reduces the risk of giving others one’s surplus resources. The higher the risk, the fewer chances people take and therefore fewer existing resources get used.

        4. That’s not really the issue.

          There are two parties to the mortgage contract – you and the bank.

          If you want to argue that you’re stealing from the bank, that’s a fair argument to have.

          Arguing that you’re stealing from your neighbor, because if your property goes to foreclosure it lowers his property value, would be absurd. That’s what he’s talking about.

      4. “extremely upset at me for advocating that people underwater should walk away from their homes. The idea is that by walking away they are reducing the value of other peoples homes and this is theft or force or morally wrong”

        It is theft. Not via property value – although there is harm done to those around via this rout. Walking away from your commitment to repay the loan is in the same category as theft. Just because bankruptcy law might make it financially advantageous to walk away from a contract doesn’t make it right. If you walk on a mortgage you are reneging on a contract for your own personal financial advantage. That’s in the same ballpark as stealing in my book.

        1. I finance a home with a mortgage. I either have to pay the mortgage or I lose the home to the lender. The lender was aware when he made the loan that this was a possibility.

          If I walk away and let the lender take the home, I have complied with the terms of the contract.

          1. No, you have not complied. The agreement was for the lender to loan you X dollars, secured by a lien on your home, which you were to repay with interest over Y years. You are, by definition, in default, not in compliance. Just because the terms of default and the lender’s remedies therefor are defined in the contract, and your actions fall within those terms, doesn’t mean you are in compliance.

            1. It is interesting how you disregard the ‘terms’ in the contract that don’t fit your narrative.

              One of the other terms in the agreement is that if the borrower is unable to make the arranged payments, that the lender will take the collateral (in this case the home). This is part of the original agreement, and by giving the home to the lender you have upheld your end of the arrangement.

              1. Bartleby is correct. Failure to pay a loan is a violation of the contract. Intent is an important part of contract law and the intent of the lender is make a profit by collecting interest from the borrower. The contract is entered into on that basis. When you don’t pay a loan back, you effectively steal the interest the lender would have made and you have deprived them from making another profitable loan with the same money.

                In fact, if a lender can prove that a borrower never intended to pay off the loan they can press criminal charges even if they receive the collateral when the loan defaults.

                Collateral is never worth the cost of the loan. If you borrow $200,000 dollars for a residential mortgage, the lender expects to get back at least $250,000-$300,000 (an often much more) over the decades that the loan is repaid over. If getting the house back recouped all their losses they would just have bought the house themselves in the first place.

              2. It’s not a narrative, it’s about simple contract interpretation. I’ve got no particular agenda here, but your argument is incorrect. The ‘terms’ you are complying with are the terms of default which, by definition, is the opposite of compliance.

        2. It’s not theft. The contract you sign clearly states that either (A) you will pay your mortgage on time, or (B) they will reclaim the collateral. The homeowners have opted for the latter choice, and the bank will take possession of the collateral as agreed. No theft involved.

          Now, if the people refused to vacate the house even after it was repo’d by the bank, that would be stealing, since it is no longer their property.

          1. Actually, it is theft if you sign a contract without having any intent of trying to comply. This is often hard to prove but people have been successful sued and convicted for this kind of fraud.

            Also, the recovery of collateral does not mean that the cost of the loan to the issue is recouped. Indeed, it almost never does which is why lender work so hard with people to keep their houses. If the house itself was as valuable as the loan, the bank would just skip the middle-man and buy the house in the first place.

            1. At the time the contact was signed they did intend to pay off the loan. Then circumstances changed. That doesn’t equal fraud.

            2. Who says they had no intent to pay back the loan? Are you saying they purposefully set out to get evicted and ruin their credit score? What evidence do you have to suggest that this is ever the case, much less the majority of cases?

              Whether the bank gains or loses money after repossessing the house is immaterial. Banks assess the value of the property before issuing the loan, so that both the bank and the applicant agree on how much the house is worth.

              If you want to take out a $200k loan from me and offer up a pack of gum as collateral, it is my duty as the lender to realize the disparity between the value of the loan and the value of the collateral and deny you the loan. If I give you the loan anyway, you default, and I subsequently walk away with only your pack of gum to show for the deal, I have only myself to blame. No theft was involved; I just made a bad business decision.

    2. Any urge to bomb foreigners?

      1. Any urge to bomb your next door neighbors?

        Because, frankly, most people who make statements like that are just fine with unleashing the power of the state on their neighbors and they are usually pissed off that killing foreigners distracts from hurting the people they really hate.

        1. Right. Are you really this delusional?

          Forget I asked; of course you are. Just look at your posts.

    3. Do you at least agree that legitimate torts could arise from non-standard property keeping?

      1. Torts? Which ones?

        Claims based on common law property rights? Yes.

        1. If my house is appraised 10K less than a similar house down to the street, due to the fact that my neighbor has a 24/7 10′ neon flashing light that says “I RAPE PUPPIES FOR FUN!”, isn’t that legitimate grounds for a tort?

          1. I reiterate: what tort?

            My answer to your question: no.

              1. That is not a tort; it is an element of damages used in contract and tort cases. But diminution in value is not itself a tort. Just because somebody did something or failed to do something and as a result some property you own has a lowered perceived market value does not mean you will be able to successfully sue them. You of course can file a lawsuit, but it likely would not survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

                In order to have a tort action, you need four elements:

                1. A duty owed
                2. A breach of that duty
                3. Causation and
                4. Damages

                You would have to identify a duty that the homeowner with the sign had towards you – a standard of conduct – that the courts would be willing to recognize and enforce against him.

                Then you would have to demonstrate how his conduct breached that duty.

                Then you could have to show that his breach of duty caused, directly and proximately your damages.

                And you would have to demonstrate actual, not speculative, damages, which must be quantifiable.

                I do not believe the fact pattern you hypothesize would constitute a tort that any court would recognize. You generally can’t sue a neigbhor for doing something to his house that you think might reduce the current fair market value of your house. Courts are not willing to impose a duty on every homeowner of not doing anything that a neighbor might think would somehow lower the value of his house.

                Now, if you had a contract with that guy (i.e., the restrictive covenants we’ve been discussing), then you have what’s called privity – an established legal relationship between you and him, which sets forth the duty owed. In that case, you’d be suing for breach of contract, not tort, and an element of your damages might indeed be diminution in value, but there you’ve got a problem of causation and proof.

                Plus, if you’re not actually in the process of selling your house at the time, the fact that his actions might theoretically have reduced the current FMV of the property will be irrelevant, because those damages are speculative, not actual.

              2. See my comment below. Causing the value of someone’s property to increase can also do them economic harm. Tough shit either way.

          2. Do you really want to piss off Steve Smith by taking him to court?

      2. No. I don’t.

        Legitimate torts could arise from property uses I can’t or won’t restrict to my own property [like the smells from a tannery] but the fact that people don’t like to look at unmown lawns is not one of them.

    4. I always like to counter that argument by pointing out that if I have no intention of selling or mortgaging my property, then people who increase my property value by improving their property are harming me by making my taxes go up. If you can force your neighbor to clean up their yard to maintain property values, then I should be able to force my neighbor not to paint his house and to keep some junk cars on the lawn to help maintain my low property taxes.

      1. That is a great argument. I think I’ll steal it the next time this comes up.

  6. Be polite. Be concise. Express your disapproval.


    Town of Tonowanda
    Building Department

    Carl R. Heimiller
    Supervising Code Enforcement Officer

    525 Belmont Ave.
    Buffalo, NY 14223

    Ph: (716) 877-8801
    Fx: (716) 871-8845

    Monday – Friday
    8:00 am – 4:00 pm

  7. Looks like NY needs a ballot initiative to decriminalize weed too…

    1. *rimshot*

  8. Remember, folks: you don’t own your property. You rent it from the government, and your rent payment is your property tax. And if your “landlord” decides they don’t like what you’re doing with your their property, they’ll make you change it.

  9. All those tall weeds could obstruct my view of the hot young schoolteacher’s bedroom window. If that’s not a negative externality, I don’t know what is.

    1. Or worse, the window of your neighbor’s hot teenage daughter.

  10. He prefers a style known as native gardening…

    I wonder if my spouse would accept that for the wild patch in our backyard? Probably not.

    I would provide some context for this by pointing out that regulations concerning overgrown lots do not exit purely for aesthetic reasons. The rules primary genesis lays in public health.

    Closely grouped and overgrown vegetation near human dwellings very quickly become havens for large rat populations. If you find an overgrown vacant lot and cut through grass carefully, you will see these little, almost tunnel like, trails crisscrossing the lot. Those trails are rat runs.

    Thousands of rats can make burrows in a single ordinary lot. They then venture out up to a quarter mile to the surrounds looking for food.

    To prevent this, most regulation allow you to plant whatever you want but require you to keep the ground clear around the plants so that the rats don’t have shelter as they scurry about.

    It’s most likely that the city workers just assumed that a lot overgrown with native plants was uncared for because in 99% of the case that is true. However, its also possible that his densely packed native plants present a hazard. I can’t tell from the photo.

    It is astonishing how quickly a rat population can build up. I live in a suburban area with no old buildings, no abandoned buildings and no old fashion sewers. Never saw a rat. Then a nearby house owner left some construction debris in the far corner of his backyard for a year. After a while, the cats started bringing in rodents. We figured out the source when the poor day labors went to move the construction debris.

    I was told it looked like a scene from “Willard.” Give me a rattlesnake any day.

    1. Guess it depends on where you live. Overgrown lots where I live are called fields.

    2. Local governments can justify nearly anything in the name of “public health.”

      So when I hear someone say that some rule is to protect “public health,” my instinctive reaction is to say bullshit.

      There is a decided difference between an abandoned, overgrown, rat-infested lot littered with construction debris and a person’s “native” garden.

      What is lacking here, as with so many local government code enforcement actions, is anything remotely resembling common sense.

      1. One could argue that laws which give broader discretionary authority to public servants are more prone to abuse, and are thus less free, than laws which are specific and have no allowance for “common sense”.

        1. In some cases, though, the law itself, although specific, lacks common sense and fails to allow for case-by-case discretion, which can be an important feature.

          1. Discretion works both ways.

          2. and fails to allow for case-by-case discretion

            That is intentional.

            Think of that annoying neighbor who is always giving unwanted advice.
            We’ve all had one.

            Those are the people who seek positions of power so they can FORCE people to take their unwanted advice.

            They don’t want discretion, they want obedience.

          3. A lack of common sense in the enforcement of laws usually results from a breakdown in community trust. When people don’t trust each other and don’t share assumptions about expected behavior, they tend to write very detailed specific laws and to remove the discretion of officials who enforce the laws. This turns the law into a brainless robot out of a Star Trek episode that mindless churns away at its task regardless of the consequences.

            1. I should not trust the State, but I should write laws which trust the State.

              Does not compute. Error. Error.

              1. It’s not about trusting the State, its about trusting the community. If people have mutual trust they tend to work things out informally without resorting to coercion. Laws tend to be simple and lacking detail because everyone has the same rough definition of “reasonable” and they assume everyone else does as well.

                For a practical example, look how things are handled in small towns versus how things are handled in urban cores. In the former, people talk about problems and the law is involved only in extreme cases. In urban areas, you won’t know if a neighbor has a problem until either an inspector or a process server shows up.

                Alternatively, look at how common law handled such conflicts as compared to the nitpicking regulation we have today. Back when common law ruled, people at least knew what the rules were.

            2. I prefer the approach of keeping the laws simple and general and enforcing them uniformly.

              Both overly specific laws and laws that allow case-by-case discretion result in abuse.
              Better to have a simple general rule that gets to the point of the issue, and let a court decide. Then build precedent.

              For instance, if public health is the reason for the ordinance, has a law that simply says that you can’t allow your yard to become a public health nuisance. Then if there is a complaint raised, the city can have a health inspector inspect the lot for rats.

      2. “”Local governments can justify nearly anything in the name of “public health.”””

        There is a such thing as public health, but the term has been abused beyond recognition.

      3. A lot of modern state power evolved straight out of public health issues.

        Prior to the invention of antibiotics and vaccines, the only protection against widespread lethal contagious diseases was hygiene and sanitation. After the discovery of the germ theory of disease, people went a little nuts and granted broad and invasive powers to public health workers to enforce hygiene and sanitation laws. Public health workers could arrest people and throw them into quarantine without judicial overview, shutdown businesses, condemn property etc with next to no oversight.

        1. Don’t forget leeches.

    3. “rat populations”
      the politically correct term is non fluffy tailed squirels

      1. and, of course, the squirrels

    4. You’re no fun. But you do remind me why I would rather die than live in a suburban area.

    5. It could also be called habitat for all kinds of wildlife. The whole rat argument is a load of crap. The rats go where he food is. If the food is outside, they will be outside. If the food is inside they will go there. Personally, I would much rather them outside. Just because you see a rat doesn’t mean it’s going in your house. Yes, rats will make a home in woodpiles nothing much revelatory there. Are we supposed to cover all land in concrete just so there is no chance of a rat?

  11. I’ve never been known to have a green thumb, so if some plant manages to live in my abode, it’s fine by me; if it lives, it’s a “plant”.
    The term “weed” is a luxury known to those who get to chose the plants they wish to thrive.

  12. “other than trees or shrubs provided”

    What does that mean?

    1. It means some dumb shit, low-level, officious, bureaucratic prick can’t write.

  13. This reminds me of a story I saw some time ago.

    An upscale suburban hepcat paid thousands of dollars for a sculpture (scare quotes at your discretion) which to his neighbors was indistinguishable from an ordinary pile of cinderblocks.

    Neighbors complain to city, city comes down like a (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk) ton of bricks; huge drama, and expensive Theory of Art education for all concerned.

    Fucking busybodies.

    1. I recall an article about an eccentric setting up a pants-dropping sculpture to annoy his neighbors.

  14. Is this Jason Sorens from the FSP? If so, he should move out of NY and head to NH.

  15. bragging about their xeroscaped yard

    That there is John-quality stuff.

  16. All the more reason we need National Lawn-Care passed in conjunction with amnesty for illegals willing to cut the grass and pull the weeds Americans won’t.

  17. In Corpus Christi, TX, it is actually cheaper to let the city do this and pay the fine and the fee for service than it is to have the cheapest professional mow a lot. How CRAZY is that. We just let them do it on their schedule and pay them.

    1. which just adds to my list of reasons why Corpus Christi is a festering shithole

      1. Wasn’t CC where the local police pulled couple hundred weeds mistakingly thinking they were MJ?

        1. In their defense, the Texas Star Hibiscus does look a bit like marijuana. Used to have one in my front yard. It was good for at least one quizzical expression a week from drivers passing by.

          Still a silly damn thing for the city to do.

        2. LMAO! Why yes it was…


  18. How much of your own money would you loan to someone you knew had no compunction against defaulting if it convenient for them to do so?

    Different question: What interest rate would I charge, and what would I demand as collateral?

  19. What kind of dick do you have to be to go for the code inspector’s job?

    1. A sheepfucker.

      1. I’m not saying the inspector is a sheep-fucker, but it’s something to think about.

      2. Joel Pile and Steve Smith are code inspectors?!?!

  20. My county has a similar regulation. However, it applies only to “developments of at least four houses”. So, folks right next to a “development” can let their yards grow with impunity.

  21. If you didn’t have a covenant you could do what you wanted. On the other hand, so could your neighbors and you could end up next door to a tannery.

    Or a nunnery. Or a sex club. Or a guy who races an old Triumph on the weekends, and fires up the noisy motor so he can run it onto the trailer. Or a sculptor who has rusty lumps of metal in his yard. Or a surgeon who invites his snooty pals over on the weekend for garden parties.

    OMFG what a nightmare. People doing what they want.

    1. My yard is filled with fragments of human skulls. No one seems to mind.

    2. My point was that is was a tradeoff.

      If you want to restrict what other people do with their own property, you had to voluntarily accept their restrictions in turn. Fair is fair. If you thought it best for you to have a house in an area in which upkeep is mandated you could. If you didn’t want to live in such a neighborhood you didn’t have to.

      The problem with the current compulsory system is that everyone must accept the conditions of the most politically powerful. Most people don’t even know what the rules are and have to hire a professional just to find out.

      In your own way, you are imposing your own judgment about what is acceptable onto other people. Just because you don’t care what other people do next door it doesn’t mean that everyone else on the planet has to do so. If they want to deal with the tradeoffs and tradeoffs of living in a restricted neighborhood, they should be able to do so.

  22. But if this were done by a homeowners association, Reason would have no problem?

    1. Enforcement of a contract, voluntarily entered into. What’s the problem?

    2. We would still laugh at the stupidity of the association terms, but we would be thankful for the freedom to not associate with those Nannies.

    3. Do you not see the distinction between private property owners voluntarily entering into a contract, versus government imposing its faceless will upon private property owners?

      1. So the answer is, if you don’t want to follow a particular HOA’s rules, don’t buy a house in the area it controls.

        Hmmm….I wonder how we could apply that to avoiding local govt regulations we don’t like. Quite a tough question, isn’t it?

    4. HOA’s are like frats, they’re full of dicks, but you have to join them to really get hassled by them.

  23. So basically you may not grow anything in your garden taller than 10″, aside from trees and shrubs. I’m sure that’s consistently enforced.

  24. He prefers a style known as native gardening in which a freeform collection of indigenous shrubs, vines, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses take the place of labor intensive lawns or cultivated flowerbeds.

    In other words, he doesn’t want to mow his lawn, due to laziness, lack of time, or something other reason, yes? That picture is not of a garden, it’s an overgrown yard full of weeds.

    Not that I’m on the city’s side or anything, but come on, let’s not bullshit each other about the “aesthetics” at work here.

    1. Fuck that shit. Yards are horrible, stupid things.

      1. Your right to harbor rats on your property ends when my Cheerios get pooped in.

    2. I thought it looked like the shoulders of a highway.

      But I know people who do this and ARE gardening….so…?

    3. That picture is not of a garden, it’s an overgrown yard full of weeds.

      Wrong. It appears managed and tended. Note there are no big long sticks of grass gone to seed poking up. Those would be weeds.

      A “weed” is nothing more than a plant growing where it is not wanted. If I want a field of lavender and tall fescue keeps popping up in between my lavender plants, that fescue is a weed and I’m going to kill it.

      1. Agreed. I know many people who maintain small “meadows” in their yards. They seed them with native wildflowers and carefully remove unwanted grasses and other undesired plants.

    4. Actually, a native garden requires a lot more work then a lawn. But way to be a bitch.

  25. Thanks for the shout-out, Katherine. I’ve got an appointment set up with the code inspector on Monday. We’ll see what happens; at least this presumably means the garden is safe from mowers until then. In the meantime, I appreciate the support, but I’d rather folks not contact the Building Dept. quite yet. As much fun as a legal battle royale would be for others, I want to see whether what they want me to do is reasonable first. 😉

    I can’t resist responding to a couple of comments. First, to Shannon Love – I’m not anti-lawn if you need one for your kids. But it’s simply wrong to say that native gardens with tall grasses harbor rats. Rats are attracted to human garbage. Some links:


    To Slut – I spend far more time & money on the garden than anyone who simply mows a lawn. I’ve spent on the order of $2000 on plants, seeds, and materials, and the garden is worth far more than that now (if the plants were dug and sold). The garden doesn’t conform to your 1950s-era aesthetics – fine. But please don’t claim that your lawn requires more time or expense or creates more benefits for others than my garden does.

    1. Do you have any plants that inspectors would easily recognise as ‘gardening’? As I said, our neighbors who do it have some annuals and a few banana trees as ‘proof’ of gardening.

      But, it DOES look like the wildflowers and weeds that grow along roadsides.

      We go the other direction–we have tropicals that have been forced to survive snow–banana, hibiscus, elephant ears, various palms. It can look messy, but there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that it’s a garden.

      1. Do you have any plants that inspectors would easily recognise as ‘gardening’?

        Bad question, Azzy…if he knew in advance what the inspectors would judge to be gardening, he’d find compliance easier. And you’re also assuming that the inspectors are competent, honest, and have no unspoken agenda.

        But, it DOES look like the wildflowers and weeds that grow along roadsides.

        And the difference between a “garden plant” and a “weed” is arbitrary at best. Poke plants (aka pokeberry bushes) are generally regarded as weeds, yet many people eat the leaves in salad.

        1. My raspberry and blackberry bushes [“bushes” used very elastically here]are some of the ugliest sumbitches you ever could see. They’re basically giant weeds and prickly briar patches. And if the town comes for them, the revolution starts that day.

          Also, most houses in nice neighborhoods anywhere I’ve lived [basically up and down the BosNyWash corridor] have lawns, but also have patches of wood between them. The line between “lawn” and “field” is wherever the owner decides to mow up to. So all of those folks would be violating this statute if it existed in their town, by failing to extirpate all undergrowth other than trees right up to their property line.

      2. They are all native plants, rather than cultivars, hybrids, or imported garden plants, but some of them are also grown as ornamentals. The purple flowers in the picture above are New England asters, which are widely recommended for home gardening. I do allow my plants to go to seed, because part of what I want to do is to spread these plants back into areas from which they’ve been extirpated. There are various abandoned areas, old rail beds, & such in the neighborhood that are choked with buckthorn, English ivy, and the like – but I think it would be nice if the asters and milkweeds made a comeback.

        1. Like the asters, loathe the milkweed–we’ve got way too much milkweed.

          And I know that the distinction is arbitrary–we found a weed coloring book at an antique mall years ago and some of the weeds look far better than the stuff we cultivate.

          1. I’m not a big fan of common milkweed, although it has its place. Butterflyweed and swamp milkweed are two very attractive milkweeds. Plus, you’ve gotta have milkweed to have reproducing monarch butterflies!

        2. hey mister, your yard is pretty

        3. good work on the yard. Looks great.

    2. Fight the good fight, Jason.

      And Shannon Love is human garbage, so that is probably part of her rat problem.

        1. Ha Ha, I’m glad you have sense of humor.

    3. But it’s simply wrong to say that native gardens with tall grasses harbor rats.

      I didn’t say they were. I said restriction on having overgrown lots were based on valid fears that they lead to rat infestations.

      It has nothing to do with the species of plants involved. The defining factor is undergrowth which means that you have many plant species co-mingled together close to the ground. This tangle of plants is what lets rats transit through the property and make burrows there. Basically, if you can look down at the plants and see bare earth between them, you don’t have undergrowth and its not a problem.

      Your only problem is that from a distance your garden looks to be one of a neglected space reverting to the natural flora of the surrounds. It’s the botanical version of pre-ripped jeans or “distressed” furniture. It looks like neglect unless you know someone intended the plants to be there.

      Rats are attracted to human garbage.

      Rats can find food almost anywhere. Habitat is an important factor as well. For example, I live in an area with modern trash containers. There is no edible garbage laying about. There is also rat habitat owing to the thin soil and the modern buildings on slab foundations. Yet, it took just one fairly small pile of construction material to provide habitats for rats and mice.

      None of this has any bearing on you particular case beyond the fact that you need to be aware that the restrictions on managing plant growth in an urban area does have practical origins in health concerns. If you are not aware of the practical, as opposed to the aesthetic, source of restrictions, you may waste time tilting at a brick wall. Just separate out the two and you should be fine. Explain that while the plant species are wild natives, they are planted and tended with no undergrowth.

      Then they won’t have any real grounds for harassing you.

      1. Sorry, that should have read, “There is NO rat habitat…”

      2. Managing plant growth in an urban areas has rationalizations based on unfounded fears not actual health concerns. Undergrowth can be critical to maintaining soil moisture. It’s also called “green mulch”.

  26. One very effective counterattack is to
    1. Learn the Code in detail
    2. Find other homes not in compliance.
    3. File detailed complaints against them.

    You will be shocked at what’s illegal.

    While incomfortable in the short run, this will generate such irritation that [with a little help from you] your fellow citizens will rise up and give their councilman an earful.

    If they don’t, they get what they deserve; don’t forget the help of your local news outlets.

  27. That garden’s in the metro Buffalo area and it is the second week of September. The fall weather is gonna kill that garden for the year in a couple of weeks.

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