College Park couple continues fight to keep garden in front yard

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A planning board agreed to recommend new rules to allow vegetable gardens after an Orlando couple fought to keep a garden in their front yard after neighbors complained.

The dispute began in November, when neighbors complained about a garden that took up the entire front yard of Jason and Jennifer Halvenston's College Park home.

On Tuesday, the Halvenstons presented board members with a basket of vegetables grown in their garden and gave them a petition signed by 10,000 people supporting their cause.

The couple said they set out to get half of their food from their front yard garden after Jason lost his job.

After a neighbor complained to the city, officials told the Halvenstons their garden violated land use rules and must be ripped out, but changes proposed by city planners on Tuesday would make front- and side-yard vegetable gardens legal with certain restrictions.

"Gardens can be messy endeavors and they sometimes have aesthetic impacts, especially if they're not well maintained," said Orlando Chief Planner Jason Burton.

Gordon laid out revisions to land use rules meant to settle the controversy.

The changes would set buffers to keep gardens away from neighboring yards and rights of way.

It would also limit the growing of annual vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplant to 25 percent of the front yard.

City planners said the new rules were necessary to prevent runoff and maintain aesthetic value.

But Jason Halvenston said restrictions would effectively end his effort to live off the food he grows.

"Most of our garden would disappear," said Jason Halvensten. "It would be shoved into the shade, of which then we wouldn't have any garden at all."

City planners who came up with the rules said they are necessary to protect the property values of neighbors.

Board members voted to pass the new rules on to be considered by City Council, which is where the Halvenston's plan to take their fight.

"They're really being discriminatory toward a plant for god sakes," said Jason Halvensten.

Rules for residential lawns outside the city in Orange County require turf on 60 percent of the lot and no restrictions on the other 40 percent.