FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — Quentin Nguyen was ripping up the sod in the front yard of his Falcon Heights home Friday, when he says he received a letter from the city which put a stop to his plans.
Nguyen had been working to transform his front lot into a community vegetable garden.
"It [would be] open for any neighbors, or any gardener who would like to come here on their own time and grow any kind of vegetable," he said. "I just wanted to turn it into something useful. It's good for the environment. It's good for climate change. It's good for pollinators."
But the letter informed him of a new interim city ordinance, passed by the city council on May 13, which prohibits vegetable gardens in the front yard of a property.
"We wanted to make you aware of this ordinance in light of the potential garden project planned for the property at [Nguyen's address]," the letter read.
"I was in shock," Nguyen said of the letter.
Falcon Heights City Administrator Sack Thongvanh said other residents brought Nguyen's garden to their attention.
"It's not like the city is against vegetable gardens," he said."Vegetable gardens are allowed in the side yard. They're allowed in the rear yard."
Thongvanh says regarding front yards, city code allows for things like sod, rain gardens, and just recently expanded to include native landscaping.
He notes that the addition of native landscaping went through an approval process, getting public feedback and going through city commissions, before finally getting city council approval.
"The reason that we're looking at this [Nguyen's garden] is because it's been put out on social media that this is a community garden," Thongvanh said. "So, you're going to have the effects of increased traffic."
Nguyen's friend and fellow gardener, Colin Cureton, started a Change.org petition to allow the garden. As of this writing Tuesday evening, it had more than 2,700 signatures.
"Especially right now, [with] this return to victory gardens during the pandemic, I think what he's doing is a great thing and I'd like to see it happen," said Cureton. "The language of the ordinance, it seems like would prevent other people in Falcon Heights from growing any vegetable in their front yard."
Nguyen says he'd like to work with the city and do what it takes to start his community garden.
Thongvanh says while the interim ordinance allows the city a year to make a decision, it could come sooner.
"With the interest, we are making that a priority. So, it could be anywhere from a month and a half, to two months," he said.
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