Conservationists/residents, Will County fight over prairie plantings in the backyard

Here is an intriguing case that pits conservationists versus suburban government: should homeowners be able to have native prairie plantings in their backyard?

Since then, a two-year legal battle has spread like unruly crab grass across state and federal courts with no end in sight. Will County authorities have spent more than $50,000 on an outside lawyer to respond to civil rights claims while prosecuting the Frankfort-area family [includes two U.S. EPA employees] over the plants…

In March, the county offered to dismiss its ordinance violation case if the couple would drop their claims and allow inspectors to take another look at their property. The couple sought, among other things, a written apology, annual payments to care for the plot and for the county to highlight the wetland as a model of suburban native landscaping…

One neighbor says her family now uses more weed-killing chemicals to keep their lawn looking good, and another has stopped speaking with the offending couple, though one neighbor said she’s reluctant to oppose plants that are native to the area…

Will County says the problem isn’t with native landscaping, but with the Frankfort Square couple’s refusal to follow the rules. Mary Tatroe, head of the state’s attorney’s civil division, said the couple failed to live up to two separate agreements and was taken to court over the “noxious weeds” on their property.

In December, the county passed a new ordinance that allows native plantings under certain conditions along with fines and penalties of up to $525 per day for violations. Tatroe said the Frankfort Square couple still would be in violation of the new code, both because of the weeds and the lack of a 5-foot buffer from their neighbor’s property.

Does this sort of thing only happen in America?

If the article has all of the facts correct, this seems like a fairly straightforward case: local governments, whether they are municipalities or counties (which has jurisdiction here because this couple lives in an unincorporated area), can have rules about gardens and plants. If the couple want to change these rules (such as how far native plantings can be from an adjacent property), it may be more productive to do these outside of court. On the other hand, if the couple is trying to make a public statement about native plants and what is allowed, a lawsuit may just get people’s attention. Then again, a lawsuit sounds combative and this whole matter has also apparently set off unpleasantries in the neighborhood (don’t mess up my lawn with those “native weeds”!).

It would be interesting to know in how many places in the United States it is illegal to have native plants. The topography and vegetation in many places (including Illinois) has changed quite a bit…and I assume most people like it that way? (Let’s be honest: most people probably never think about it.)

One thought on “Conservationists/residents, Will County fight over prairie plantings in the backyard

  1. Pingback: Keeping your lawn nice under pressure from your neighbors | Legally Sociable

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