Officials in Newton, Mass., have found a new enemy.
In this suburb of Boston–the cradle of liberty–one man is now the target of bureaucrats who say his tomato garden does not meet the town’s zoning specifications.
The tomato lover in the crosshairs of these tomato-hating-zoning-zombies is one Eli Katzoff. He said he built the structure in the front yard because the back yard didn’t get enough sunlight. Now, he allegedly faces a fine of $300 per day.
That’s a lot of tomatoes.
To be fair, it’s not your typical garden.
It’s actually better.
An innovative wooden structure holds 30-plus buckets, which, in turn, hold the tomato plants. But that’s the rub. Apparently, a few guys in the city’s zoning office believe it’s a “permanent structure” and therefore must be banished from existence.
They even imply the garden could be unsafe.
Yep, an unsafe tomato garden.
“There’s no path for them,” declared John Lojek, the city’s commissioner of inspectional services, to The Boston Globe.
Not to be outdone by his tomato-busting, safety-conscious comrade, Newton Chief Operating Officer Bob Rooney chimed in: ”If it’s unsafe he could be directed to take it down immediately.”
Maybe Lojek and Rooney are right. A pathless tomato garden could wreak all sorts of havoc. Blind children could mistake the structure for a jungle gym and…get splinters. Or, cash-strapped wannabe trapeze artists could get on, fall, tear their Achilles, and forever ruin their lifelong dreams of making it to Cirque du Soleil.
Don’t Lojek and Rooney sound like they’d be real fun to party with? They’d probably inspect the bar’s bathroom to make sure the instructional hand-washing sign was easily visible…and written in two languages.
Sadly, there are scores of Lojeks and Rooneys across America. UPI had this tomato story filed under “odd news.” But it’s hardly odd:
- A Georgia farmer in my county, DeKalb, at one point faced $5,000 in fines for growing too many vegetables on his own land.
- A condo association in New Hampshire–which has the motto “Live Free or Die”–sued a homeowner $6,000 plus legal fees for her flowers.
- A woman in Michigan faces 90 days in jail for growing a vegetable garden in her front yard—a violation of the city’s strict zoning restrictions.
Katzoff may now be forced to give away his tomatoes because, well, $300 a day can kinda add up.
“We hope they’re going to come around to the idea as well, and they’ll realize there are much bigger problems in Newton to deal with than a tomato plant garden in the front yard,” Katzoff told Boston’s WBZ-TV.
Talk about an understatement.