Tag Archives: Historic Preservation

I am more appropriate than previously thought

I’m taking out another contract on my garden today. It seems our trellis is in the right-of-way and the Ada County Highway District wants to make sure I won’t whine, should they ever exercise their rights.

A few months ago, Boise Weekly readers might recall, I was served with a fence violation for erecting a trellis in my front yard. The fence violation spiraled into a full-fledged historic preservation violation because of the materials used in its construction and because of the major landscaping change which the trellis surrounds: a nearly 2,000 square foot front-yard garden.

The garden is thriving. We have been eating salad every day, carrots are maturing, radishes are almost all eaten up, some peas are crawling up the trellis, though looking a bit yellowed already. Everyday I walk barefoot in the garden and eat turnips right out of the ground, graze on the lettuces. Every day multiple people walk or bike by and stop to chat about the garden. At nearly midnight last night a group of cyclists rode by and shouted, “Nice garden, dude,” as I read on the porch.

So it is with great pleasure that I report to you that the City of Boise has deemed the garden and trellis “appropriate.” That is the term they use. I have a Certificate of Appropriateness pending for my little urban farm.
It’s pending because I need to get my license agreement with ACHD done first. And because they’ve asked us to put some permanent greenery along the street-facing edge of the yard. So I need to find a low-water, low-profile creeping plant that will grow down a nearly vertical slope to the street but not take over the garden, if anyone has any recommendations … something that is not grass.

But the other interesting thing that came out of this process is that the city’s Historic Preservation Department plans to convene a working group at the end of the summer to discuss gardens in Historic Districts. Sarah Shafer, the lead staffer at Historic Preservation told me that the commissioners prefer raised beds but said that the were looking for some more recommendation on how to handle gardens in historic districts.

I argued in my letter to the city that gardens are inherently historical. And if I end up participating in the garden working group, I will argue that raised beds are inherently limiting and a touch elitist. Well, I won’t argue, but I will try to make that point as graciously and eloquently as possible.

I can’t be sure, but I think our giant front-yard garden has inspired some others in the neighborhood to plant it up. There is a yard a few blocks down that has a ton of corn and beets coming in and I noticed some new raised beds in an alley around the corner. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people started finding tomato plant volunteers in their lawns instead of dandelions?

I’d like to share the letter I wrote to the city requesting the Cetificate of Appropriateness … you can read it after the jump. Hell, it’s public record, so anyone can see it anyway. In the letter, I stressed that the city is encouraging urban gardening and other environmentally responsible practices on the one hand but limiting people’s imaginations through zoning on the other. I think they realize that and are looking for a solution.

In the meantime, I’m hoping that whatever neighbor complained about my plot will come forward and talk to me about it. I have no hard feelings, even though the process of being forced to defend my land-use choices has been pretty annoying. I would say now that I still believe the city has a right to regulate things like fences and landscaping to some degree, but that it would have been better for any aggrieved neighbor to have a discussion with me first, and then turn me in if I was an asshole about it. That’s a more local solution.

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