College Park neighbors clash over vegetable garden code

City wants to limit area of garden, height of plants

Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:03:01 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 15 2013 01:42:30 PM EST
COLLEGE PARK, Fla. -

Orlando officials on Tuesday discussed changing the city's landscaping code to address front yard vegetable gardens after a College Park couple's controversial garden sparked national outrage.

Orlando's Municipal Planning Board presented its recommendations, which include:

• Limiting the area in front of a home where vegetables can be planted to 25 percent.
• Plants cannot be taller than four feet, (i.e. tomato plants in the front yard).
• Planter boxes would have to be three feet from the sidewalk.

[PICS: Patriot garden sparks controversy | READ: City Agenda | MPB recommendations]

Jason Helvenston, of College Park, says the proposed restrictions will make it impossible for his garden to grow.

"(The proposed rules are) basically made by a bunch of people who don't grow vegetable gardens," he said.

One by one, residents voiced their concerns during the public comment period of the meeting.

"The restrictions of 25 percent -- when it's my yard, I own it, I pay taxes on my yard -- are ridiculous.  They are infringing on my constitutional rights as an American," an Orlando resident said.

Some, however, support the staff's recommendations.

Gretchen Rivera owns the home next  to the Helvenstons and filed the original complaint about the garden.

She's concerned about property values and safety in the neighborhood.

"I passed by last night, and it looks like somebody who wants to have a crime, they can hide between the tomatoes or anything else and that's not good," she said.

In November, Local 6 broke the story about the controversial garden after the city told the Helvenstons their 25-by-25-foot front yard vegetable garden was not in compliance with the city's code.

The city was originally going to fine the couple $500 per day if they didn't comply with the old laws, but that's been placed on hold.

Watch Local 6 News and stay with ClickOrlando.com for more on this story.