Seattle tells gardener: 'Cut down flowers or pay up'

Seattle tells gardener: 'Cut down flowers or pay up'
SEATTLE - Slash back your flower beds or pay a fine: that's the warning from the city of Seattle to a woman in the city's Eastlake neighborhood.

The order came after a resident complained that Mary Hansen's beloved garden was a safety hazard.

She grows everything from rhubarb to roses in her garden on Minor Avenue. Many neighbors say they love the beautifying effect it has on the neighborhood.

"I can't eat dinner outside or work in the yard without people commenting, and it's just wonderful," Hansen says. "I mean, I built the garden for me, but also, it just creates great community."

But now some of that community support has wilted - at least in one case - after a neighbor filed a complaint with the city saying that Hansen's Eastlake oasis blocks the line of sight for cars driving nearby.

"The safety issue is an issue," says neighbor Steve Hansen.

"They've got a beautiful spot there, but if you're in a car and coming up to that intersection you cannot see people," echoed neighbor Ellen Hansen.

The problem is that the plants have grown too high on the corner lot, including on the small strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. That's the city right-of-way - and that makes Mary Hansen's flowers a safety issue, according to a spokesperson for Seattle's Planning Department.

So it sent her a written warning.

"The letter upset me, I do have to say," she says.

So Mary Hansen posted it on her front lawn. And the comments, like her lilies, began to grow.

"I love this garden," says neighbor Amanda Bailey.

"Isn't this what we're supposed to be doing? Turning our parking strips into little gardens and becoming a greener city?" says another neighbor, Sheree Fisher.

Now it appears the city will soon be a little less green. Hansen has to comply with the city's guidelines or face a fine. The guidelines state that her plants can be no taller than two feet within a certain distance of the intersection.

"It would be sad. I'm up to thin and compromise, but if I had to take everything back to 30 feet, 24 inches, that would be a really sad thing," Hansen says.

Hansen will be meeting with a city official on Wednesday to discuss the issue. She hopes to lobby for a four-way stop or a roundabout to slow traffic at her busy intersection.