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Raised bed garden causes bylaw stink in Surrey

 
Rick LaJambe
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Location: Surrey, British Columbia
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In my home city of Surrey, British Columbia, a family has built hugel mounds all around their home. Neighbors around them in their McMansions complained to the city bylaws department. The city has ordered the family to flatten out their mounds as they supposedly breach a city bylaw.

raised bed garden causes bylaw stink in Surrey- Couple told hugelkultur garden contradicts city's 'Unsightly Premises Bylaw.'
http://www.thenownewspaper.com/news/raised-bed-garden-causes-bylaw-stink-in-surrey-1.651510
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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What a load of bad compost is that?

Hope the fight it!!!
 
Josef Theisen
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Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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How unfortunate, and here I thought that this kind of insanity was limited to the US.

On the bright side, this is the first time I have ever seen the word hugelkulture in the news. That could lead to greater understanding which is really the only thing that is going to prevent situations like this.

22 days to remove an acre worth of hugelkulture? crap, I hope they have access to a tractor. My condolences to the victims of this tragic abuse of power.
 
Dale Hodgins
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This thing has been reported a dozen different ways. She's a naturopathic doctor and a chemist, so is likely to produce a sound argument. People from the ministry of the environment are on their side.

I've never seen a Mc Mansion in Surrey. It's the least attractive city in B.C. They make jokes about the place all the time. Some are about crime, and some are similar to red neck jokes. It's laid out on a grid and the streets have numbers instead of names.
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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for those that dont want to follow the link:

FLEETWOOD — The City of Surrey wants Jess Thompson and Cindy Quach’s “unsightly” garden to be removed, despite the garden’s health benefits to their family and environmental perks to their community.

In the summer, Thompson and Quach started a hügelkultur garden on their rented one-acre property in the 8300-block of 168th Street. Hügelkultur is a European farming technique that has proven to be a popular method sustainable food gardening.

“You bury biomass at the base before you warm the bed – you would take things such as branches, leaves, tree trunks, and then put your growing medium over top,” said Quach.

“Over time, the biomass decomposes and releases heat and nutrients.”

The garden provides fresh fruits and vegetables for them and their two children while also preventing the growth of hogweed, an invasive plant with sap that can cause long-lasting blisters, scars and even blindness.

Following hügelkultur methods, the couple mowed down the hogweed, suppressed it with recycled coconut husk, put woodchips on top and created raised bed gardens around their house.

But despite the prevention of hogweed growth, neighbours have complained to the city’s bylaw and licensing department about the garden. Nearby residents initially raised a stink over, well, the stink of the manure when it was first brought in.

“When the woodchips and the manure were freshly delivered onto the property – before the beds were actually built – that was when the complaints started coming in to bylaws,” said Quach. “Before we even had a chance to level out the piles to form the garden beds, the bylaw officer came and looked at the place.”

The smell subsided once the manure was worked into the garden beds, but Quach said there were still complaints to the bylaw department that their garden is an eyesore.

“Initially, (the officer) said, ‘Oh, that’s fantastic, you’re doing the neighbourhood a favour,’” she recalled. “But then a week went by and I suppose more complaints came in to bylaws and we were served with this letter that the property is not in compliance with the unsightly bylaw.”

Thompson and Quach were given 22 days to remedy the infraction under the Unsightly Premises Bylaw, which outlines such criteria as accumulation of refuse, damaged landscaping and broken fencing as reasons a property can be unsightly. They said they called the officer for clarification and were told that levelling out the piles would put them in compliance with the bylaw.

“We levelled it out, we formed our beds, he came back and he was not satisfied,” she said. “They were expecting flat beds, but we’re doing a hügelkultur bed.”

The garden beds resemble small, brown hills made up of bark mulch and soil. Neighbours have also complained about the height of the garden, but Thompson and Quach have noted that, given time to grow, the hills will compress in size while becoming leafy and green in colour.

“The unfortunate thing is there’s no neighbourly communication,” said Quach. “We could have had a chance to explain it to them, but instead of talking to us, they called bylaws instead.”
Thompson added, “They just saw material coming in and they didn’t understand what it was, but they never asked us.”

Furthermore, Thompson and Quach’s property is fenced and surrounded on most sides by trees, including large evergreens lining the front yard along 168th Street. Quach said most people would have to make an effort to see their “unsightly” garden, and Thompson noted that neighbours in support of their garden are wondering why the city isn’t targeting other dilapidated houses in the area.

“There’s one down the street that’s getting hit with graffiti quite a bit,” said Thompson. “When they see an unsightly property, there’s ‘obviously unsightly’ and then there’s somebody trying to do a garden.”

The couple has a petition with about 90 signatures from residents in favour of the garden, as well as verbal praise from the Ministry of Environment and a letter of support from Bob Boyd, a longtime public health inspector with Fraser Health.

“The hügelkultur or raised bed/mound is ideal for urban and suburban lots,” reads Boyd’s letter, noting that the garden falls in line with the City of Surrey’s green movement by conserving water, recycling, composting and eating a 100-mile diet. “These days, when we are constantly hearing about going ‘green,’ growing food in your backyard should be encouraged.”

Jas Rehal, manager of bylaw enforcement with the city, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the infraction, but said the investigation is ongoing and that the city is working with the owners on a solution.

Ultimately, Thompson and Quach picked hügelkultur gardening as their remedy for hogweed because it was cost-effective, eco-friendly and low maintenance, while also producing more than 90 per cent of their vegetables. If they’re forced to remove their garden, it will be costly and the hogweed will grow back in the area.

The couple hopes to present to the agricultural advisory committee on their situation.

Twitter @jacobzinn

jzinn@thenownewspaper.com

© Copyright 2013


interesting that no one came to them before calling the govt. wonder if the complaints were anonymous or not.
 
Rick LaJambe
Posts: 58
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
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The funniest thing about this to me is that in another paper, one of the neighbors is quoted:

But Jerry Filewich, who lives next door and who signed a letter with 10 others who want the city to shut the garden down, said the garden smells, attracts rats, will drive down property values and is “unsightly.”

“I look out the window and I have to see that crap,” he said. “It’s not a garden, it’s bull----. This is not the place to have a farm.”

http://www.theprovince.com/mobile/story.html?id=8979563

A two or three minute walk from that property is farmland!
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm surprised to see them going so far with a rental property. I assume that they have the landlord on side.

This issue has exposed a whole city to the idea of hugelkultur. They say that "any publicity is good publicity". I'm sure that many gardeners who read about this, will Google it and learn more. It's just a matter of time until enterprising farmers latch onto the idea that they can charge a dumping fee to dispose of wood waste and then turn it into beds. This will rattle the chain of officialdom in charge of dumping regulations. Regular dumps won't welcome the arrival of a better model. A fight of that sort is bound to generate publicity and expose more farmers to the economic opportunity. I'm soliciting this sort of business. At some point, some shit is likely to decide that my soil amendments constitute dumping.
 
Clara Florence
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This is how most people think about gardens. If you don't have a patch of mown lawn with a border of annuals like me, it's unsightly. Of course, they could deal with it by bringing in some large earthmoving equipment on the weekend, dig all those hugels 2 ft deep so that they then have tada! Flat garden beds or only slightly raised ones. Mr Unsightly could then spend his weekend watching excavators and unable to listen to his TV. Life has been regulated to death, pretty soon they'll be restrictions on what varieties of veges you're 'allowed' to grow in your garden.
 
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