By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- A county resident has found herself at odds with county code enforcement and will face a lawsuit.
Stephanie Wright lives in the southern part of the county and cultivates edible herbs, such as oregano, and other plants on her residential property. However, county code enforcement officials have been fining her for overgrown weed charges since 2008.
The fines have increased to $160,800 and the county commission regretfully gave approval to legal counsel to pursue a lawsuit against Ms. Wright for a judge's order to mow her property completely.
At the April 2 meeting, Ms. Wright explained to commissioners that the plants she grows on her property are nursery plants and grasses, and that she does mow the areas of her lawn where there is grass, but commissioners said the level of growth of the plants was too much for a residential area.
Ms. Wright said she has had a contentious relationship with her neighbors since moving to the area, and that they are the reason code enforcement continues to be called to her property. As recently as February she said someone poured herbicide on her easement, causing plants she planted there to die.
She said she and her family mind their own business and she just wants to be left to raise her garden in peace.
Commissioner Wesley Davis said the volume and location of her plants were appropriate for agricultural zoning, not residential zoning.
The "overgrown" plants are in her front yard and are visible from the road. Commissioner Flescher suggested she take the plants to her backyard, but Ms. Wright did not want to move them.
"You take the legal action you need to. Obviously I'm not getting anywhere today," she said.
Commissioners voiced regret that they had to exercise government authority in this case, rather than find a workable solution.
Commissioner Bob Solari said that it sounded like the root of the problem was neighbor relations.
"And that's not something we can ever solve," he said.
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