New city ordinance forces family to destroy their vegetable garden

SUGAR CREEK, Mo. - There’s a new ordinance in Sugar Creek, Missouri, that restricts the use of agriculture on properties in the city.

Nathan Athans believes it’s a witch hunt against him.

Athans grows several different types of vegetables on his lawn and loves tending to his garden.

“I'd probably say about 300 hours [so far this year], I spend all my free time out here,” Athans said.

He believes it’s important for his family. “I want my family to know where their food is coming from, I don't want to have to go to the grocery store and worry about what was done to that food.”

However, neighbors and city officials don’t see the garden the same way. Last summer the city cited Athans for weeds in his garden but he said he complied.

“We did it, completely weed-free, we paid our citation,” he said.

The city’s building official, Paul Loving, argued otherwise. “I don't know that there would have been a problem with them had the gardens been well kept, they weren't.”

The new ordinance specifies that vegetation must be 30 feet from the street.

Athans said he can’t grow the garden in his backyard because it only gets about two hours of sunshine and only in certain areas.

Loving said the city received many complaints and the ordinance is the resolution. “Because I want my yard a certain way doesn't mean the neighborhood has to keep his yard the same way, but I do have an expectation that we'll all be reasonable in what we put in our front yards.”

The family has been given four days to get rid of their front yard garden or face a fine.

They’ve started an online petition in hopes of getting the city to change the ordinance.

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Shannon Halligan can be reached at shannon.halligan@kshb.com.

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