Fruitvale: Family takes down trellis rather than pay $100 a day

Rather than pay $100 per day, the Caputos took down the wooden frame that stood in their front yard.

Rather than face a $100 fine every 24 hours, a Fruitvale family has complied and taken down their tomato trellis.

“We took the trellis down this morning,” Marlo Caputo said in her Aug. 26 update to the Trail Times. “We received a notice on Wednesday, August 24, stating council’s decision to give us 48 hours if we did not remove it, they were going to fine us $100 per day.”

The plants toppled pretty much as soon as we took the supports down, she added.

“It’s very unfortunate the decision was made by council without anyone ever contacting us. I sent an email to them on August 11 and not one member responded.”

The wooden frame is actually the remaining part of a front yard greenhouse that Mike and Marlo Caputo put up this spring to help their vegetables grow growing their own food is what the young family strives to do.

The problem with the greenhouse is that village bylaws do not allow such a structure in front yards, it’s deemed an accessory structure and therefore the Caputos were told to take it down. The village reported receiving a complaint and that the structure was impeding sight lines.

First they took down the plastic, but kept up the frame. A later letter from the village stated the homeowners remained in violation because the wooden frame was part of the greenhouse, which again, is classified an accessory structure.

Hoping to find common ground, the couple met with an adjudicator and a member of village staff in mid-August.

Mike’s parents and a few other people were on hand for support, but to no avail.

The ticket they received in June was upheld and ended up costing the family $100 plus $25 for adjudication.

“We did try to come to a resolution,” Marlo said.

Following the adjudication, she asked to keep the structure up until the end of September, but was informed the request would have to go before council.

Then on August 24, the Caputos received notice from the village.

“Council has reviewed the situation of your illegal accessory structure in the required front yard (4.5 metres) of the above noted property, which is in contravention of the Village of Fruitvale Zoning Bylaw,” the village wrote. “Council has been apprised of the results of the Bylaw Enforcement Notice Adjudication held August 16, 2016 wherein the Bylaw Enforcement Notice was deemed valid and upheld.”

Upon review council directed staff that no extension or exemption would be given to allow the structure to remain “illegally sited,” and the structure had to be removed by 4 p.m. on Aug. 26.

If the structure remained up after that time and date, the couple would be given a Bylaw Enforcement Notice for each day thereafter that the structure remained in the front yard; each notice would be in the amount of $100.

Disappointing yes, and with the frame now gone, the Caputos are forging ahead with their “Grow Food Not Grass” petition.

The petition stems from having to remove the greenhouse (first the plastic then the wooden frame) and asks the Village of Fruitvale to amend its bylaw to allow temporary greenhouses in front yards to accommodate the growing season.

“It also supports growing practices that are organic, self-sustainable and in alignment with the current needs of our environment,” the couple states.

To date they have 350 signatures on their paper petition and 250 on their online petition.

“We have asked to be added to the September agenda and are waiting to hear back,” Marlo concluded. “We have received tremendous support and appreciate all the positive feedback.”

The couple is not sure about their plans moving forward, however.

”We’re hoping the bylaw will be amended to allow a temporary greenhouse in front yards. We will continue to grow our garden as it is what we love to do.”

Gardening experts agree that a greenhouse is one of the most valuable additions to a property, if you want to be more self-reliant by raising more or your own food, a greenhouse large or small can help the growing process and extend the growing season with fresh food year-round.

For those wondering why the Caputo’s greenhouse wasn’t built in the back or side yard, the answer is simple – there wasn’t adequate space and those respective areas are in shade most of the day.

And the front yard garden is an eye-catcher – many people stop by to have a look and comment how attractive it is, says Mike.

“We believe in organic growing, we want to teach our kids where their food comes from … and this was the best spot for the sun,” he shared. “Gardening is supposed to be a stress relief, but now with all this, it’s actually causing stress.”

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