Maplewood resident, Alice Hezel, is on probation and says she faces jail time, cited for “failure to control weeds-vegetation, habitual offender.” Her Maplewood court date is Aug. 15. The city says it doesn’t jail people for this offense.
Correction: Maplewood city, said via Twitter @enjoyMaplewood and Facebook that the city doesn’t jail for this violation. Also that “The City of Maplewood views this matter as a maintenance issue (lack of cultivation); the type of plants that are being grown is not an issue.”
Hezel doesn’t deny she has vegetation in her Cambridge Avenue yard, but says the city ordinance doesn’t define what a weed is.
At a previous court date (she’s been going since 2012), she said a county prosecutor couldn’t tell her why she was being fined. “I think a good attorney would look at that and say it’s not enforceable, it’s so vague,” Hezel said. “It defines a husband and a wife but nothing in there that defines a weed.”
The ordinance states a weed is “any growth of grass or weeds to a height of 12 inches or over.” See the ordinance.
In 2013 she asked Assistant City Manager Anthony Traxler for a list of plants that are acceptable so she would know what to buy.
He replied by email, “Nothing in your yard would be considered ‘cultivated’ which is why you were issued the notice of violation. You simply threw some wildflower seeds in your yard so it would not have to be cultivated and/or maintained which is a violation of our ordinances. Note that our ‘jurisdiction heights in inches’ is 12 inches which your weeds far exceed.”
“Now on Aug. 15 I have to go and if I haven’t complied with my probation then they’re going to issue a warrant for my arrest. I don’t have anything in my paperwork that says these are the terms of your probation.”
Hazel lists some of her plants as Purple Coneflower, Bottlebrush Blazing Star, Bee Balm Horsemint, Brown Eyed Susan and others. She said she bought them all at the Kirkwood Farmers Market.
Some are Milkweed, which is food for Monarch butterflies, a protected species, she says.
“You can’t mess with their food supply. You’ll be in violation of the federal law. So their ordinance is really even in violation of the federal law,” she said. “I love my yard because the kids love the butterflies and the bees.”