My name is Jackson LaRose. I am the owner and inhabitant of 438 East Main Street. Last year, the health department lodged a complaint against the condition of my property, which they claim is a "potential harborage for vermin". The reason being is that I haven't mown my lawn, because I am attempting to repair my soil based upon accepted Permaculture practices. As such, the grasses and other broad-leaf annuals (chicory, dandelion, etc.) in my yard grown taller than they had deemed safe. They sent me a legal order that I cut the offending plants. I appealed in front of the State Board of Health, lost my appeal, and asked the Health inspector and city attorney what I needed to do to be in compliance. The health inspector's answer was,
I wasn't sure to what height, if trees and shrubs also counted, garden flowers, vegetables, etc.
After my repeated requests for more clarification, she became frustrated and referred me to the City Attorney. He told me that I could either mow or mulch. I chose to mulch, and spread town provided mulch on my property over the winter. In the spring, almost all of the grass species were gone (smothered by the mulch), allowing the broad-leaf annuals to spread. I thought this would be satisfactory, because grass is the only type of plant mentioned in the legal order, and the remainder who came up through the mulch are widely considered to be wildflowers (chicory, goldenrod, dandelion, yellow hawkweed, etc.).
Earlier this week I received a packet from the City Attorney. Contained within was a lawsuit for violating the order of the city. They threatened to sue me for $119,500 ($250 a day from the pre-appeal deadline of Jun. 21, 2010) plus any legal fees. I called the attorney to ask why I had been sent this, and he claims I had not complied with the order. I tryed to remind him of our conversation last November concerning the mulch, of course, he conveniently "did not recall", but he also said it did not look like I mulched at all from the pictures he saw (although there is clearly hardly any grass in my yard anymore, and mulch clearly visible). I asked what he wanted me to do, and he referred me to the Health Inspector. I asked her again what she would like me to do. Again,
I asked her for some guidelines I could follow in the future to avoid the threat of such a large lawsuit. Her only answer was,
"You know what to do, it has to go."
She also mentioned no "weeds" (but would not specify what she meant by that vague term), and that all flowers had to be "landscaped" (again, no definition of terms). She also refused to put anything into writing (statement of compliance, guidelines, etc.) She is coming by my house Monday morning to do a walk through so she can point out what she means, since she is either unwilling or unable to do so over the phone.
I am now afraid that this woman has become the overlord of my property. I don't want to wonder every time I adjust the flora of my yard, whether or not the specter of this outrageous lawsuit will return to haunt me. It is also my belief that the health inspector has taken our past exchanges personally, and will keep me "under the microscope" out of her dislike for me.
I spoke to the ACLU, and they advised me to get my story out to some local media outlets. I'm hoping you can bring some light on what I feel is an unjust situation.
- Thank You,
438 East Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457
Editorial Note: The above letter was sent to the Eye and we are posting in its entirety as it was sent to us. Nothing written in this letter has been researched or verified by the Eye, nor has the letter been edited. The letter expresses the opinion and experience solely of the person who wrote it.