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Urban gardener ordered to remove flowers: ‘How can you get complaints about too many flowers?’

PETERSBURG, Va. — Paul Meyer has a passion for plants, but Petersburg city regulations prevented him from planting flowers on the sidewalk in front of his home.

Meyer received a notice June 4 from Petersburg, Division of Engineering, that stated he had to remove his plants from the right of way outside of his Market Street home, as they were “too tall” and he did not have a permit.

“It’s basically expensive to pay for a permit in the right of way to plant flowers,” Meyer said in a video he posted on Facebook. “So, I’m in a food desert and I can’t plant food and I’m in an area with major blight and I can’t plant flowers.”

The City of Petersburg Right-of-Way Permit Fee Schedule states landscaping or plantings in a Right-of-Way costs $10 per linear foot. Permit fees must be paid before permits are issued.

“How can you get complaints about too many flowers in an area that has no flowers?” Meyer asked.

In the Facebook video, which has now been viewed more than 11,000 times, Meyer cut down his flower gardens, which included tall sunflowers and other smaller flowers.

The City of Petersburg issued Meyer a notice that he was in violation of three City Code sections:

50-63, or detrimental or excessively high growths of weeds or other vegetable matter

98-22, or duty of property owners and occupants to cut grass and other vegetation between sidewalk and curb line and roadside ditches

98-126, or planting of shade trees on sidewalks

Meyer operates Petersburg Grows!, an urban farm and nursery, and Virginia Vegetable Co., an urban farm and garden services company. Both businesses are located in Petersburg.

“It was so much work making a beautiful garden for the city, and in five minutes, it’s gone,” he said.

The City of Petersburg stated they offered Meyer alternatives to him cutting down his flowers.

“Although we typically require properties to be brought in compliance within 48 hours, Mr. Meyer was offered an additional 10 days to remedy the situation,” Folakemi Osoba, the Petersburg Public Information Officer, said in a statement. “Mr. Meyer was also offered a permit application to apply for use of the right-of-way and was also given the opportunity to replant the flowers on his property. Although these alternatives were provided, Mr. Meyer chose to cut the flowers instead.”

Meyer said in the video that he hoped to make a change in city code regarding plants in the right of way.