Public housing residents in South Pittsburg forced to remove gardens from yards

Public housing residents in South Pittsburg forced to remove gardens from yards

June 5th, 2016 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/3/16. Eighty-five-year-old Sally McMillan visits her South Pittsburg neighbor on Friday, June 3, 2016. McMillan had six mature rose bushes that she had to remove from her front yard due to new public housing regulations banning flower and vegetable gardens. Her neighbor has not yet complied.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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South Pittsburg Housing Authority will have its next board meeting at 5 p.m. June 20 at the South Pittsburg Housing Authority at 214 Elm Avenue.

Public housing residents in South Pittsburg have been told to remove flower and vegetables gardens from their yards.

Several residents and even the town's mayor oppose the policy.

"I can't help from thinking about how devastating this is on those who have put years of time, love and expense in their flower gardens," Mayor Jane Dawkins wrote on Facebook.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/3/16. Eighty-five-year-old Sally McMillan visits her South Pittsburg neighbor on Friday, June 3, 2016. McMillan had six mature rose bushes that she had to remove from her front yard due to new public housing regulations banning flower and vegetable gardens. Her neighbor has not yet complied.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The housing authority's board voted in April to give residents until June 1 to remove their gardens.

Executive Director Lisa Bradford said in a written statement that it has always been the housing authority's policy to prohibit residents from planting flowers and vegetable gardens in the yard, but the previous administration did not enforce it.

"This new landscaping policy is needed to ensure the safety of the maintenance employees, residents and guests of the housing authority," she wrote. "Each resident that violated the landscaping policy by placing unauthorized alteration on the residential property created greater obstacles and safety issues for maintenance employees."

On some properties, maintenance workers have to stand in the road to do their job around residents' gardens, according to the statement.

"The presence of additional obstacles created an environment where the maintenance employee has to spend more time performing landscaping maintenance rather than other maintenance on the properties," Bradford's statement said.

Bradford said board members may discuss the policy at their next board meeting, which is at 5 p.m. CDT June 20 at the South Pittsburg Housing Authority office.

"They may choose to bring it back up and want to discuss it or change it," Bradford said Friday.

She said her job is to enforce the resolution that amended the exiting landscaping policy.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/3/16. Eighty-five-year-old Sally McMillan visits her South Pittsburg neighbor on Friday, June 3, 2016. McMillan had six mature rose bushes that she had to remove from her front yard due to new public housing regulations banning flower and vegetable gardens. Her neighbor has not yet complied.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Under Resolution 937, residents are allowed to have potted plants on their front and back porches. But they are not allowed to plant anything on the property's lawn.

There is no such policy at the Chattanooga Housing Authority, according to CHA officials.

"The CHA encourages residents to participate in gardening to provide fresh produce throughout the growing season as well as encourage collaboration among neighbors," said Robin Derryberry, spokeswoman for the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

CHA residents may have gardens as long as they are neatly maintained and weeded and have enough space around them to allow for mowers or carts. She said CHA has three community gardens at three different housing sites.

An 80-year-old public housing resident in South Pittsburg said she's been sick and stressed since she got the letter saying she was no longer allowed to have a garden. Yellow daffodils and deep pink roses are among the plants and flowers extending from her porch to the curb.

"These were my babies," said the woman referring to her flowers. She doesn't want to be identified for fear of jeopardizing her housing.

The woman said she planted and cared for the garden herself and with her own money.

When the garden is in full bloom, it looks good enough to be featured in "Better Homes and Gardens," said another public housing resident who also wants to remain anonymous.

"Why don't they want the housing projects beautiful when its not costing them anything?" she asked.

Uprooted branches and brush provided the only evidence of the rose bushes and flowers that once surrounded 66-year-old Larry Taylor's house. He destroyed them to comply with the housing authority's new policy and said he has no complaints. He said he appreciates the housing authority caring for the yard.

The housing authority started cutting residents' grass about two years ago, he said. He said he appreciates that because he has spina bifida and it's getting harder for him to maintain the yard himself.

He allowed one flower, a yellow four o'clock, to remain in the ground because he wants to give it to someone instead of destroy it.

Sally McMillian cut down all the red and pink rose bushes that wrapped around her home. But the 85-year-old resident of eight years said she also has no complaints.

"I didn't care but I liked having them," she said about having the roses cut down. "Everybody came by talking about how pretty they were."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.


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