Josh Remai says he couldn’t believe it when he was told he had to remove his raised garden.
For some time, he’d eyed the slim patch of city-owned boulevard in front of his house in the Haultain neighbourhood. His backyard is too shadowy to grow vegetables and the sunny patch near the front of the home looked perfect for a few carrots and peppers.
He got out his hammer and started building a modest garden box.
Then he got a letter from the city, threatening a $500 fine if the boxes weren’t removed.
“Before we could even get dirt into them, we received the notice from the city saying they’re not allowed,” said Remai.
The city said the box went against the Traffic Bylaw, which states that no one can place any material on a boulevard without permission from the city’s general manager.
The city flagged many reasons as to why the city did not want the garden box placed on the boulevard. It said the beds could damage the root systems of trees by smothering them and that anything built on the boulevard could get in the way of maintaining city infrastructure, like pipes.
Remai said there are raised boulevard gardens all around the area. He said his neighbour has had one for 10 years.
“We live in a neighborhood of beautiful trees. We don’t want to see them harmed at all,” he said.
“But the guidelines, when they were designed, I’m not sure that they were thought out that well.”
He reviewing the bylaw and saw that no one is allowed to build on the boulevard or street without civic permission.
“It’s fine for Saskatoon to say we’re going to adopt a sustainable culture and try to encourage compost and gardening and community involvement,” he said.
“But if the rules don’t work to that effect then it’s all just lip service. It’s not really doing anything.”
The city said two other homeowners were also given notices to remove garden boxes. It said boulevard gardens can sometimes be built, but normally only small items like stepping stones and bird baths are allowed.
Any structures are supposed to be removed before winter for snow plowing and street sweeping.
The city agreed to a minor extension to look at the issue after hearing that other homes in the neighbourhood already had garden boxes.
An administrative review of the guidelines has already been underway in light of City Council’s Green Infrastructure Strategy.
Councillor Cynthia Block represents the neighbourhood and wants both sides to be helped along.
She said that while trees need to be protected, she also believes boulevard gardens should be able to exist.
‘My understanding is that there are some folks at city hall that are still looking at this to find out if this particular planter might meet the guidelines,” she said.
“They’re also ensuring that the bylaw is doing what it is intended to.”
She said older neighbourhoods like Haultain often run into bylaw issues and that it can be confusing.
“The areas of the city that I represent have just grown up in an historically different way than the newer areas and there are many things that are not currently bylaw compliant,” she said.
“It would be my wish that we look at this through that lens.”