A wild and naturalized garden to the homeowners, an unkept lawn to others, the front grassy-knoll of the Barnes’ home caused police to cut it down without notice.
Here’s What Happened
A naturalized garden to Karen and Julia Barnes’ home became a fiery issue in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, after it was razed under city bylaws in June.
Armed with weed whackers, a city crew in Burlington, Ontario, arrived unannounced at the Barnes family home earlier this summer to see justice done, the Toronto Star reports.
This happened after the city threatened the Barnes family with daily fines of $10,000 Canadian (about $7,500 USD) for “bylaw violations.” The city “razed” the Barnes’ yard instead.
The alleged infractions? Growing a “butterfly paradise” of native plants without keeping vegetation under 20 centimeters (roughly 8 inches) tall, among other infractions that the family disputes.
The issue of the Barnes milkweed-filled garden, which was home to butterflies, bees, and other critters, has been going on since 2015.
Karen and her daughter Julia had poured hours into it, choosing what to grow and maintaining the property. On June 6th, the garden was cut down.
“They just razed the whole thing down to the ground. It was leveled down to dirt,” Karen said.
“I was screaming,” recalled Karen, the homeowner and mother. “It was just a complete panic. I didn’t know what to do. We’re not allowed to interfere because that’s a $100,000 fine. I was just in shock and grief that anyone would do that.”
The city claims there were noxious weeds and invasive species, while the growth exceeded the 20 centimeters allowed.
“In this particular case, communication with the property owner has been ongoing since 2015, with the City previously completing maintenance activities when compliance was not met. Initial notice was given in October 2022 with subsequent discussions until June 2023 when follow-up maintenance was completed,” wrote Kerry Davren, director of Bylaw Compliance for Burlington.
In October 2022, the city sent a notice with a threat of $10,000 every day if they didn’t trim their garden and $100,000 if they obstructed. Then on May 26, they were sent a letter, which the Barnses say they didn’t receive until June 4th, warning them to comply.
Two days later, their garden was gone.
The Barnes family challenged the city’s actions in court and tried to maintain a space for pollinators, like bees and butterflies, with plants such as “goldenrod, coneflower, wood poppy, purple asters, and milkweed.”
The Barnes family started to “let nature take its course” in 2015, with the growth coming in as high as three feet. The city had received multiple complaints from neighbors calling it an eyesore, with some remarking the home looked abandoned.
“I don’t understand why any city would want to eliminate pollinators. They feed us. They sustain us. A lawn is nothing more than an ecological desert,” Karen said.
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