Code Police! 6 Things That May Surprisingly Be Banned in Your Front Yard

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Just because it’s your property doesn’t mean you can do anything you’d like with it. Towns and residential communities ban all sorts of things from appearing in front yards, and by most accounts, enforcement of the rules is picking up.

The code enforcers around the country have recently targeted everything from tree houses to lemonade stands, and even if outright bans aren’t in place, homeowners are facing the annoyance of getting permits or variances just to do what they please on their own properties.

On the front-yard prohibited list are things such as:

Vegetable Gardens
Given America’s obesity epidemic, it seems odd that any community would risk being called anti-vegetable. And yet, as the New York Times detailed last December, gardeners—who “aren’t generally known for their civil disobedience”—have been ordered by local code enforcers to get rid of front-yard veggie gardens in places such as Orlando, Fla., Tulsa, Okla., and Ferguson, Mo. Officials in West Des Moines, Iowa, considered a front-yard garden ban recently, and a woman in the summer of 2011 Michigan faced 93 days in jail for refusing to dig up her garden.

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The anti-garden forces say that raised beds and veggies are unsightly and should remain strictly backyard affairs. For homeowners who think otherwise, and who live in places where front-yard gardens aren’t prohibited, take note of tips for landscaping a yard so it’s both beautiful and edible.

Little Free Libraries
Last fall, the village of Whitefish Bay, Wisc., ordered a church to remove a mailbox-like structure on its front lawn. The structure resembled a mini-chapel, but was filled with books available to all comers, free of charge. There are hundreds of such “little free libraries” on private residences in Wisconsin, and thousands more around the globe. Yet, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, Whitefish Bay officials shot down one resident’s request to install a free library in his front yard. (The village bans all structures in front yards, even mailboxes.) And when it was brought to the village trustees’ attention that the Christ Church-Episcopal already had a little free library on its property, the church was told it has to be removed.

Garden Gnomes
Residential communities are often riddled with strict rules regarding what owners must never allow passersby to see. In one of the more egregious cases, a woman in Port Orange, Fla., was recently told to “move visible statues including a pelican, egrets and a gnome” from her yard or face a fine. The woman was particularly upset because she was supposed to remove a white angel statue, less than a foot high, which was a gift from her recently deceased husband. Another resident said he was facing a $100-per-month fine if he didn’t get rid of a basketball hoop in his driveway. Meanwhile, reporters took note that the community’s homeowner association president had a decorative fountain and a statue of a cat in front of his house.

Clotheslines
Many private residential communities ban clotheslines in yards as well, based on the idea that allowing Mother Nature to dry your clothes is bad for property values. But it’s not just homeowners associations coming down on clotheslines. Late last year, the village of Great Neck, Long Island, officially prohibited residents from hanging laundry in front yards.

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Newsday noted that Southampton, Long Island, banned front-yard clotheslines in 2002, but later dropped the prohibition “after protests from impromptu laundry-rights activists.” In several other parts of the country, residents have petitioned officials to pass legislation that would ensure their “right to dry” with clotheslines.

Couches
After targeting front-yard clotheslines, Great Neck is reportedly planning on banning couches on front porches. If it does, the village will join places such as Durham, N.C., and Huntington, W.V., which have recently decreed that couches don’t belong on front porches or lawns.

Too Many Yard Sales
To stop residents from hosting nonstop garage sales—essentially turning their front yards into secondhand stores—communities around the nation have felt compelled to prohibit owners from having sales too often. The rules usually restrict homeowners to no more than two to four sales annually, and owners are often required to get permits. In Long Beach, Calif., for instance, a garage sale permit costs $17, the sale can go on for a maximum of three consecutive days, sale hours are limited from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and only two permits are allowed per residential address each year. Other cities charge just $1 for garage sale permits.

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There are often other garage sale rules. In Pinecrest, Fla., owners will get in trouble if they use more than one sign to advertise their sale. Just one sign is allowed on the property, at a maximum size of 12″ x 18″.

13 comments
ruraynor
ruraynor

hahaha, land of the free? You can't even dry your laundry in your garden. To get into air dried sheets is one of the great free pleasures in life. I'd kill to have a garden to dry mine in, instead of having to do it indoors on a clothes horse. Drying your clothes outside is much better for the environment; you're harnessing energy that would be shining on your garden anyway. There's nothing wrong with a vegetable garden either. If your neighbours don't like it, they're snobs who need to get a life. A house should be a home, not an investment.

BruceThompson
BruceThompson

I miss when this was a country worth fighting for.


scionofgrace
scionofgrace

I live in a housing co-op that prohibits vegetable gardens next to our units, but to be fair, the co-op does have a community garden where we can grow any veggies we like. It's not convenient, but at least it exists.

I understand the issue with couches, if they're not the kind that are intended to be outside. Upholstery can get nasty after a couple months of rain and sun.

Yard sale restrictions: Depends on how it's done. If all you have to do is say, "Hey, I'm having a yard sale on such-and-such a weekend" and they sign off on it, that makes sense. If you have to jump through fifty hoops and talk to a dozen people, that's just being ridiculous.

The silliest ban I've ever had to deal with was an apartment complex which insisted that we couldn't remove the vertical blinds that were installed at every window. We could put curtains inside the blinds (to hide them from the view of those inside the room), but they had to be visible from the outside. They were ugly and noisy and a pain, prone to breaking, and so bulky that finding curtain rods that could clear them was tough. Management at that complex was great otherwise. They were prompt to fix things and friendly. But why did they make us keep those ugly vertical blinds?

jfdoylejr
jfdoylejr

There can be logic behind the furniture ban. Last year in Urbana IL, a couch on a front porch caught fire in the middle of the night (smoldering cigarette butt) and the lack of smoke detectors on the front porch, allowed the house to catch on fire, while the occupants were sleeping. An off duty police officer on his way to work, saw the fire and alerted the residents, but it was too late for one. 

FloydmoistBleumonge
FloydmoistBleumonge

All of these are considered pursuits of happiness and free trade. To limit these is a usurping of citizen freedoms and therefore illegal to limit.

ltdarkstar
ltdarkstar

HAHA Whitefish Bay one doesn't shock me. It's coined as "White people's bay" by some in Milwaukee and is a very rich and snooty area. Doesn't shock me in the least at how mental they are about structure rules.

hotandbothered
hotandbothered

This is B.S. It's my home, my property. I pay your damned taxes.  If I want a veggie garden with a freakin gnome standing guard then go on, come and fine me!! I will do as I like!

eagle11772
eagle11772

I lived in Huntington, Long Island, and Huntington, West Virginia, and they're both beautiful places.  I know live in Coolidge, Arizona, and the people across the street from me have a big garage sale every week with donated items.  Nobody seems to mind. 

MataHari
MataHari

Honestly, these are stupid unnecessary rules. I live in the Philippines and we don't have any problems with these. It's your property and you should be allowed to do anything you want with it.


sbunny8
sbunny8

@BruceThompson Ah yes. The good ole days, when we were proud to have been accidentally born into what was obviously the country with the best system of government on Earth... so damned proud that we would gladly kill anyone who promoted a slightly different system of government, even if we had to go halfway round the world in order to do it. I miss those days too. Oh wait, it's still like that now. Never mind.

ummm1
ummm1

@MataHari I'm guessing the home prices and property values of most of the locations noted in the article are many many times higher than those in the Philippines, so obviously there is a demand to live in these locations. Don't know about the Philippines, but I know I would never want to live in the imaginary rule-free libertarian thunderdome you propose in your last sentence.  

Gge.Ga
Gge.Ga

@ummm1 @MataHari 

High home prices mean nothing . Do you recall the Great Recession that the USA is still recovering from?  People can build the exact same house in scores of countries in the world for a fraction of the cost.  Then there are the property taxes, in the USA you NEVER own your home, ever.

 restrictions on what you do with your front yard, what plants you grow, not being able to have a basketball hoop is part of the cycle to turn the USA into a police state.  There is no freedom, just rules, laws and fines.