Stephanie Wright: Indian River County commissioners sue woman to make her mow lawn

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Stephanie Wright, of the 2300 block of First Place Southwest, mows her lawn, she said Tuesday. But not her edible herbs.

"I mow where the grass is," Wright, 49, said. "Where it's not, I fill it in with something else."

Those landscaping practices are sending her to court. County commissioners agreed Tuesday to sue Wright to make her mow her property — edible herbs as well as grass.

The county Code Enforcement Board in 2008 placed a $100-a-day lien on her property on an overgrown weed charges. Now the code-enforcement liens have compounded to $160,800.

"What we're looking for is a judge's order that she continue to mow her property," Deputy County Attorney Bill DeBraal said. "If not, she'd be in contempt of court and either face a fine or be placed in jail."

Wright addressed the commission, insisting she grows herbs like oregano that her family eats, and said she has been contending with neighbors' harassment. For instance, she said, someone sprayed her easement Feb. 26 with an herbicide, killing her plants.

On March 23, she said, she bought several bags of red-bark mulch and will be putting that on her easement.

"That will be the end of the story," she said. "There will be no need to mow and no one needs to trespass. It will be done."

Not quite, Commissioner Wesley Davis said. The herbs on her own property aren't right for a residential area, at least outside of a marked garden, he said.

Davis said she would need an agricultural zoning to grow herbs the way she wants to.

"If you were in agriculture, you could tell your neighbors to pound sand," Davis said. "But you can't do that here."

Chairman Joe Flescher suggested her herbs would be better in her backyard, away from the casual visitor's view.

"You take the legal action you need to," Wright told commissioners. "Obviously I'm not getting anywhere today."

After Wright left the commission chambers, Flescher said her concerns have gotten too big for the commission to resolve.

"This is not so much code enforcement as a problem with neighbors," Commissioner Bob Solari said. "And that's not something we can ever solve."

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