Front yard garden stirs controversy in Ferguson

Earlier this week, KTVI ran the story of Karl Tricamo, a Ferguson resident who planted an organic vegetable garden in his front yard and has since been visited by city code enforcement five times. I happen to live in the same neighborhood as this man, and I’ve seen his garden. It’s very tidy and attractive. One of the nicest yards on the block, actually.

Which makes me want to ask city officials, many of whom I consider friends: WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU THINKING?

We’ve spent years promoting the Ferguson Farmers Market and all the green goodness it offers. We are also incredibly fortunate to be the home of multiple community gardens and the oldest organic farm in Missouri. As a result, our reputation as a healthy, green, progressive community has grown exponentially, and yet THIS is what you choose to crack down on? Seriously?

I’m very familiar with our local codes, and I share the city’s desire to foster clean, well-maintained residential areas. Of course I do, I’m a real estate agent! But as a real estate agent, I also know that Ferguson should be doing everything it can to attract responsible, good neighbors like Karl Tricamo. And I can think of dozens of other properties that detract from our community FAR more than some nice young guy growing veggies.

I don’t know how you feel about this, NOCO fans, but I would much rather live next door to an organic vegetable garden than a grass-filled lawn covered in toxic chemicals. And as I try to take this whole Live Well Ferguson thing to heart, eating better & getting more exercise, I feel like this silly garden controversy flies right in the face of that.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

***UPDATE, 5/25*** Just to be clear, I didn’t post this article to condemn the city’s code enforcement team. As I’ve said many times, I think Ferguson’s Public Works employees are some of our most under-appreciated local heroes. I posted this to start a conversation about what kind of community we really want to be, and to raise questions about the logic & impact of our existing codes related to gardening and growing food.

I had a good conversation with John Shaw, Ferguson’s city manager, earlier today, and I’m convinced that the city is eager to find a compromise that everyone can live with. Here’s what John has to say:

The City first looked at this property when a complaint was made by another resident in the neighborhood; at that time, the owner had removed all of the grass from his front yard creating potential erosion problems and other concerns. The City then learned of the owner’s desire to plant crops covering the entire front yard of the property. Public Works immediately met with the City Attorney to review the Municipal Code, in order to determine how this resident could accomplish his goal of providing produce for his household, without breaking the existing ordinances.

Of course, these ordinances are in place to protect residents from adverse effects and nuisance conditions caused by certain land uses. In order to avoid or mitigate those adverse effects on neighboring properties, local governments designate separate areas for commercial, residential, industrial and agricultural and impose further regulation to ensure a necessary separation between these uses.

Because of the nature and scope of the agriculture proposed by this property owner, the owner was informed that the proposed agricultural use was too intensive for this residential property. However, the City provided the resident with other options. These included using one of the community gardens that the City had established for this purpose and tending a smaller residential garden on the property.

The nature and scope of the proposed agricultural project within a dense residential area raises a number of concerns such as the attraction of insects and rodents, public safety issues due to the height of the full-grown corn, and the erosion that will occur once the growing season is over. However, the City has met with the resident and is continuing this discussion at the present time.

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