‘I question the logic’: City tells grandma to replace part of front garden with grass

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Georgina King has rebuilt her front garden as a retirement project, replacing grass with artfully laid out plants, bushes and stone walkways. That was 17 years ago and King, now 78, says she loves it.

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But the City of Ottawa does not.

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Earlier this year, King received a city bylaw violation notice telling him to “restore the city boulevard to its original state.” That means replacing the part of his front yard that the city owns as a right of way with grass, says King’s granddaughter, Ashley Wilson. If King doesn’t comply, the city could do it again and charge him for the job.

King said the notice of violation caused him “a lot of stress and sleeplessness” and his efforts to appeal the notice went unanswered by the city.

“I’m not here to cause trouble for anyone.” But King said the settlement is outdated, arbitrary and doesn’t make sense.

“I question the logic of a bylaw that favors outdated lawns over environmentally friendly and water-conserving options,” she wrote in a letter to the city that she says is remained unanswered.

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“A lot of people in my neighborhood (and across Ottawa) have moved away from lawns to gardens like mine.”

Among other things, King said the garden means she doesn’t have to own, store and maintain a lawn mower.

“It’s good for me, but also for the environment.”

As a retired woman living on a fixed income, she said she appreciates that the garden costs less than grass. She said she hopes the low cost and low maintenance of the garden will allow her to live in her home longer as she gets older.

The city, which limited media relations staff over the weekend, had not yet responded to a request for comment on the matter.

King lives on a quiet crescent in Orleans that has no sidewalk. She said her garden hasn’t been a problem in the 17 years it’s been in place. In fact, many people commented on the beauty of the garden, she said.

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“I have always been aware that a section of the facade belonged to the city,” she wrote to the city. “Reinstate would mean unnecessary cost and labor and for what reasonable purpose?”

She said she would feel differently if the city intended to build a sidewalk or needed the land for any purpose – “I would reinstate (the grass garden) without question.”

As it stands, King said she felt unfairly singled out.

“The thing is, so many people in the city did the same thing.”

King said the garden was a peaceful retreat for her.

“I go out with a cup of tea in the morning and plan to spend 15 minutes in the garden and that turns into two hours. I don’t consider this work, I consider it relaxation.

On its website, the City of Ottawa describes the municipal right-of-way as being wider than the width of the road “in case road widening becomes necessary at some point in the future.”

“Despite this, a landlord is still responsible for maintaining the city-owned portion of their land, with regards to matters such as grass cutting and snow removal.”

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