What heppened to this couple is an embarrassment to the city.
Andy Bromage in Blurt/Seven Days: Burlington Couple Busted For Gardening Structures in Front Yard
"We want to control our own food as much as we can," says Rooney, who lives on South Willard Street near Champlain College. "Sustainable living. We live in Vermont. Grow your own food. All that stuff —– we believe in all of it."Urban agriculture is alive and well in the Intervale, why not allow it in other neighborhoods? City council, are you listening? As a friend remarked after reading this story, "What a great example for others in a tight economy: grow your own healthy food! Beat the high cost of quality nutrition! Find your own solutions, in a cold climate!"
But last month, the couple got a notice from the Burlington Code Enforcement Office that their gardening structures were a code violation and would have to come down to avoid penalties. The code office received anonymous complaints — three of them — about the homemade hoop houses.
Rooney says he was told that, under city zoning regulations, hoop houses qualify as "stable structures" and that the couple's raised garden beds qualify as "retaining walls" — both of which require permits from city hall. So does a two-foot-high metal fence that lines the garden to keep out hungry rabbits.
"This is ridiculous," Rooney says on a recent spring day.
Rooney and Dorn are master gardeners, certified through classes at the University of Vermont Extension School and hours of apprenticing. Their front yard on South Willard Street, a well-heeled part of town with stately colonial homes, has been turned into an urban gardener's paradise — with bountiful gardens, peach, apple and pear trees, and strawberry beds alongside the steps that lead up a slope to their front door.
But to at least one neighbor, the hoop houses are an out-of-place eyesore. Rooney says he doesn't know who made the complaint. He called one neighbor to inquire about it, but says he never heard back.