I NEED YOUR HELP!
My city is forcing me to pay a “garden tax” on this garden and singling me out in my community to do so and I think it is unjust!
I want there to be no “garden tax” in my community so that more people can afford to feed their family’s, attract native wildlife, conserve water, and help beautify our neighborhoods by gardening on shared easement areas.
This is the garden I built behind my home for my community on shared easement area with the city. It is primarily a mixed native plant and drought tolerant garden and I cannot see the garden from my back door – it is meant to be enjoyed by others and to help beautify our community and improve the economic value of our homes. People who pass by the garden stop me, thank me, and encourage me to keep growing it because it helps our neighborhood.
You can imagine how upset I was when a city employee recently called me and announced that I would be required to sign an ordinance agreement and pay fees to the city on this garden. Although the ordinance is a “city-wide” ordinance which would apply to all citizens that have landscaping of any kind of their easement property, the employee said that my garden and five others are being singled out by the city to have the ordinance applied only to them.
I was horrified that I was singled out from everyone in a negative way and I confess that I cried when I hung up the phone. I have worked so hard to help beautify and help the city. For them to put me in this negative category after all my efforts to build and to inspire others to help grow community was crushing.
I was not informed when this ordinance was being formed or put into place. City management decided to enforce this new ordinance with 5 or 6 existing gardens that existed before the ordinance was changed – my garden is one of them. Essentially, this is a “garden tax” and the fine for refusing to sign and pay these fees is quite large. Worse yet, the singling out individuals by the city over a city-wide ordinance is discrimination and is a concern for me and my family.
Being asked to pay the city a fee when we are maintaining that landscaping and property at our own expense makes no sense to me.
What really saddens me is with the ordinance in place, new gardeners are discouraged to garden because of the fees. What if a family was starving and needed to feed their children and wanted to place a well-tended vegetable garden on easement property? If you are poor, you certainly cannot afford city fees and taxes built to discourage gardening. What if you just wanted to beautify your community and help keep your home value up? These fees would discourage that too.
In the United States and even in my small Illinois town, Warrenville, people are going hungry, businesses are shutting down, and bankruptcy is rampant. Gardens can feed the hungry, beautify the community so more businesses want to stay, and help manage and reroute water drainage issues (saving taxpayer’s money). We need gardens now more than ever!
Tonight I went to a City Council meeting and requested that both the issue of singling people out and the issue of the “garden tax” be readdressed by the city. I posted what I said to the City Council below so you can see more detail on how the city approached me and why I am trying to get support.
I NEED YOUR HELP! Please help me show the City of Warrenville in a peaceful way that we are in support of NO GARDEN TAX in our communities. #NOGARDENTAX
Leave a comment below effectively signing a petition to help me make a difference!
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WHAT I SAID AT THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING ON 2/21/12:
My name is Shawna Coronado. I live at [gave address] in Warrenville, IL.
Friday, February 10, I received a call from Sonya Shearer, the City of Warrenville’s Code Enforcement Officer, about the 200’ long garden I’ve built along my and 2 other residents’ easement property she told me I would signthe City of Warrenville Landscape License and Covenant Agreement and pay a fee. Those fees will be $35 to the City of Warrenville and approximately $40 additional to the county.
Also, Ms. Shearer went to an organization I am a part of; Warrenville In Bloom. Without my presence there, Sonya asked them to help her police “the problem” which is my garden. If someone is complaining about my garden to the city I should receive a written notification, certainly not conversations with non-profit organizations I am a member of.
I want to work with the city in a positive way and I am pleased to see that we are all committed to working together for the benefit of our neighborhoods and the greater City. With this in mind, my concern is that Sonya told me that the agreement was actually set in place for all the citizens of Warrenville who had landscaping of any kindon their shared easement property, from mailbox gardens to bushes and trees, but that the city is not approaching other easement gardeners. They are only approaching me and five other gardeners.
Now I’m not sure why I’m being singled out and I don’t know who these other five homeowners are, but we share something that the rest of Warrenville does not: we are being segregated by the city into a category that is different and unique then the rest of the community. That is discrimination. To be prepared to police this ordinance you must hire enough staff to do so fairly – you must do a survey of every property in Warrenville, determine which homeowners have trees, bushes, or gardens in an easement area, then force them into fines and signatures equally or change the ordinance policy entirely.
I have researched the current City Easement ordinances here in Warrenville and discovered that they have changed from when I originally installed the garden. I was not notified of nor invited to the City Council meetings during the time when these property ordinances were being decided upon even though the property I have been taking care of would be financially impacted. Neither were the other homeowners in Warrenville who have had existing landscaping on easement property.
My thought is this Landscape Covenant is a money making ordinance and a tactic built to put more control into the city’s hands over our properties. In essence, the City of Warrenville has built a “Garden Tax” to be placed on our community at a time when some of its citizens are going hungry and have no money – a time when we all need gardens more than ever to beautify, strengthen, and grow our city.
I have spent hundreds of hours in this garden, spending time and money to beautify our community. Dozens of my friends and neighbors have donated plants for this garden. I have worked tirelessly in the last five years to educate people on how to feed the hungry, how to conserve water, how to help their communities, and how a garden is not simply a garden, but is a tool with which to improve economic viability within our community.
Utilizing social media I have been able to get positive attention for the City of Warrenville on a global scale. I have built a career on encouraging people to get involved in their communities and have followers in dozens of countries who think of this place as an idyllic small town in America because of my efforts. Our family has continued to be dedicated to volunteering and supporting Warrenville with pride for the more than 13 years we have lived here. After all those years of hard work, financial investment, and time spent you can imagine that getting this telephone call from Sonya singling me out in a negative way from the rest of our community feels unjustly discriminatory and pretty much broke my heart.
This city does not need discrimination, it does not need another ordinance which is an attempt to collect fees and control people, it does not need a “Garden Tax”. What this city needs is some common sense. I feel as if have spent the last five years of my life trying to encourage growth in our community and in one ordinance the city has been able to squash my progress in a single swoop.
I am here this evening to bring all of this to your attention and to request that this situation AND the Landscape License and Covenant Agreement be addressed by the City Council. NO ONE in Warrenville, Illinois should be discriminated against or discouraged from helping beautify our community by having to pay a “Garden Tax” when hundreds of people in our community are going hungry, when our homes are being economically devalued, when businesses are closing up shop and we are losing the power to entice them to stay, and when we could change much of this with a few concerned citizens and the power of a garden.
I want the ordinance fee to be removed for every resident of the city. I want our community to be able to plant on easement property without ordinance fees, within the constraints of basic rules set forth by the city such as no tree or invasive plantings. And I want any policing of the easement properties to be done so fairly and without discrimination.
I know that both Warrenville and I are committed to working together to benefit our neighborhoods and city. Having said that, City Council, I hope you will please consider investigating this situation and readdressing this ordinance. Will you please put this on the agenda for the next City Council Meeting?
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*Note – The city did not answer me while I was there. I will have to wait to see what it is they vote to do.
Thank you very much for your support.
ANOTHER POST – THE CITY HAS RESPONDED and SHAWNA HAS CLARIFIED SOME ISSUES OF CONCERN – go to this LINK.