College Park couple says front yard vegetable garden is under fire again

Helvengstons launch protest of Orlando's law after facing fines

ORLANDO, Fla. - A College Park couple's vegetable garden is on the chopping block again after the city threatened fines if they don't uproot it by Thursday, according to the Institute for Justice Florida Chapter.

Jason and Jennifer Helvengston are launching "Plant a Seed, Change the Law," a protest of Orlando's law, which they say violates their constitutional right to peacefully use their property to grow their own food.

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

After hundreds of emails supporting the couple flowed in and initially allowing the Helvengstons to keep their garden, saying it will hold off on violations, the city has since asked the couple to uproot the garden and replace it with a lawn or face fines, according to the Institute for Florida Justice Chapter.

"The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to know they will not go hungry," said Jason Helvengston. "Our Patriot Garden pays for all of its costs in healthy food and lifestyle while having the lowest possible carbon footprint. It supplies valuable food while being attractive. I really do not understand why there is even a discussion. They will take our house before they take our Patriot Garden."

According to Ari Bargil, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, the Helvengstons were supposed to have a scheduled inspection on Thursday, resulting in fines up to $500 a day.

However on Tuesday afternoon, Orlando city officials told Local 6 the case is on hold and has been for several months.

"We're trying to provide clarity, at this point, the code is not clear," said John Ippel, the sustainability director for the City of Orlando.

Ippel told Local 6 on Wednesday the city in the process of updating its landscaping code, incorporating language that will address front yard gardens. The city council should be making a vote by March, according to Ippel.

"We endorse gardens, we're invested in community gardens, we've done workshops on gardening, we're not against home gardens," Ippel said on behalf of the city.

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