Debate over gardens growing

Village asked to ease up on restrictions

June 24, 2009

Kay Wosewick says her overgrown yard is the "scourge of Shorewood."

Louise Quigley claims she has the "most notorious" garden in the village.

Naomi and David Cobb were ticketed within 10 hours of putting a vegetable garden in the parkway in front of their home.

Gardeners all, they each have slightly different stories to tell, but they are united in hoping that village officials ease up on rules for what residents can and cannot plant on their properties.

There are two main issues being reviewed by the village: Whether residents should be able to plant vegetables in their front yards and whether gardens of any kind should be allowed on the parkway, the right-of-way area between the sidewalk and the road.

Quigley, who lives on the corner of Jarvis Street and Maryland Avenue, has both prairie plantings and vegetables in her yard and on the parkway. "In 18 years, there has been one negative comment," she said.

Quigley said she initially tried to follow the rules when she decided to plant.

"I came down here (to Village Hall) and asked, 'What do I have to do?'" she said.

Quigley said she was told she needed to go before a committee that never met. "So I did what other people did," she said. "I planted my gardens."

She did check to make sure she would not hit power, gas or water mains under the parkway, noting a concern of village staff about parkway plantings.

The village can try to clamp down on what's being planted on lawns, but "the horse is out of the barn," Quigley said. "There must be 20 years of precedent."

Resident seeks clarity

The Cobbs built their raised garden bed on the parkway because there was no other spot in their yard in the 4500 block of Newhall Avenue for a vegetable garden. Naomi Cobb believes the village should take a leadership role in addressing concerns.

"The village government should get ahead of this as to the size and location of beds in the parkway," she said.

Wosewick, who lives on Shoreland Boulevard, is replacing the grass on her lawn with native plants. Passers-by support her project, she said, but under the current code, Wosewick will have to submit a land management plan for a natural lawn.

Village has several concerns

Village Manager Chris Swartz said Shorewood has regulations that prohibit structures and gardens in the parkway, although some are allowed with special permits.

Village staff is concerned about structures in the parkways because they could create visibility problems for vehicles and pedestrians. There also are concerns about the aesthetics of such structures, possible dangers from buried utilities and the weight the structures can put on existing tree roots.

Vegetable gardens in front yards are a separate issue, Swartz said. Staff doesn't have a problem with them, but he recognized that a yard with 8-foot tall corn stalks might not be well received by everyone.

Although nobody at a Streets and Building Committee meeting on Monday spoke in opposition to the two types of gardens, trustees said they have received e-mails and calls from residents who are against them.

In neighboring Whitefish Bay, Assistant Village Manager Matt Schuenke said there are a handful of property owners who have planted in the parkways, mainly shrubs.

"Our ordinance prohibits that kind of activity, but people do it," he said. "If people ask, we say they cannot do it. It's not a widespread problem, but they are definitely not planting vegetables. If there were a structure, such as a planting box, in the parkway, we would ask for it to be removed."

Staff will name a Streets and Buildings subcommittee to study the gardening issues.



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