Couple fights against municipality over wildflower garden

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A couple from western Quebec are fighting with their municipality for a specially designed yard containing milkweed, tall grasses and wild flowers.Last summer, the municipality of La Pêche informed Jazmine Maisonneuve and Samuel Cloutier, both 37 years old, that the fast growing vegetation on the commercial property surrounding a new workshop in the village of Masham was a “nuisance”.

Last month, the municipality sent them another warning and told them that they risked a $ 400 fine if they did not mow it.

“We didn’t sow grass very deliberately and intentionally. We don’t want to mow our lawn. We don’t want a lawn, actually – we want a meadow, ”said Maisionneuve, landscaper.

The municipality told the couple that a neighbor complained that the yard – filled with milkweed, thistles, purple asters, Queen Anne’s lace and other flowers that attract pollinators – had reduced the value of neighboring properties.

Maisonneuve rejects this assertion.

“We think it’s a lot nicer than the scorched, mown and brown lawns of our neighbors right now,” she says.

“We did not sow grass very deliberately and intentionally,” said Jazmine Maisonneuve. (Stu Mills / CBC)

Request to catalog plants

Cloutier, a custom home builder and metal maker, said he received a call from a city worker who told him the city would sue the couple over the tall plants.

La Pêche regulations require lawns to be kept less than 15 centimeters.

Cloutier also defended his yard, saying plants and flowers are valuable to pollinators and calling it healthier than a yard with short grass.

I think any judge in court would use their common sense and say, “Hey, we’re wasting our time here.– Samuel Cloutier

The municipality, Cloutier said, told them it could keep the yard if it hired a biologist to list the various wildflowers growing on the property.

But when they paid the biologist $ 400 and sent photos and descriptions to the municipality, the municipality rejected the report, said Cloutier, as it did not include a site map with the locations of the flowers.

Cloutier said he told the municipality he would no longer spend money on flower reporting and now congratulated himself on being able to fight legally.

“It is insulting. It’s quite surprising that in 2020 we’re having this discussion right now, ”Cloutier said.

“I think any judge in court would use their common sense and say, ‘Hey, we’re wasting our time here. “”

Carolyn Callaghan, biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, says many people love the look of a freshly mown lawn, but letting wildflowers grow instead is much better for the environment. 0:52

Campaign for wild lawns

Dispute comes as Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) campaigns urging utility providers and municipalities not to spray and allow public lands, power corridors and rights-of-way to develop with pollinator-friendly flowers and vegetation.

CWF researcher Carolyn Callaghan said the campaign is targeting approximately 6.2 million private residential lawns in Canada.

“As Canadians, many of us have a long-standing love affair with [a] lawn cut and mowed. We think it’s neat and tidy and beautiful, “said Callaghan.

“Unfortunately, it’s a desert – it doesn’t support a lot of species, and it certainly doesn’t support pollinators because there are no flowers. “

The mayor of La Pêche, Guillaume Lamoureux, seen here in 2017, says he believes the by-law is inapplicable and would like to see it withdrawn. (Amanda Pfeffer / CBC)

An “obsolete” by-law, says the mayor

In an email to CBC News, the mayor of La Pêche, Guillaume Lamoureux, said the by-law was “outdated and unenforceable”.

Lamoureux said he was not aware of a case where a homeowner had been fined under the bylaw, and he would like that removed at a future review.

He pointed out a recent grant of $ 10,000 to the local honey producer outside the Apiverte network as proof of the municipality’s alignment with environmental objectives.

“People who wish to encourage pollinators and wildlife are free to do so, but should try to limit the spread of invasive species or allergens,” he writes.

Lamoureux also said he was not sure the municipality would keep its threat to sue Cloutier and Maisonneuve.

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