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.