any lawyers?

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any lawyers?

Postby slowskid on May 17th, 2010, 11:45 am

HI all

I have a legal question and I know the law will be different depending where people live but I would just like some opinions.

My home backs onto a city-owned greenbelt which separates my residential area from farmland. My neighbour, two doors down, a few years ago went into the greenbelt and began cutting down the underbrush and growing Chinese vegetables. That was fine and the next year, the neighbour next door to me, joined him and also began growing Chinese vegetables. Now they have cut down the blackberry bushes behind my house and are planting their garden.

I have asked them not to plant their garden behind my house but they have just ignored me. Some neighbours think it's wonderful that they did all this work and have such a productive hobby. I prefer the wilderness behind my house. I bought the house on this side of the street because it had the greenbelt behind it and I thought it afforded me more privacy but now when I look over my fence, I see what looks like a private farm. They have lean-tos where they keep their equipment and tall plants with stakes and netting. Their "garden" is actually a farm of about 120 by 80 feet. My husband thinks they are just growing vegetables for friends and neighbours but I think this must be a commercial operation where they are selling to markets in town.

My question is, if they continue to farm on city land behind my house, can I be charged with theft if I go into their garden and pick their vegetables? Can they claim ownership of these vegetables that they planted on city land.

My husband doesn't understand why this is making me so crazy, but it is the greed factor. They have taken what was supposed to be a wild spot there for everyone's enjoyment and converted it to their own private domain. Thanks for any input.

Sandra D
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Re: any lawyers?

Postby jro on May 17th, 2010, 12:21 pm

My question is, if they continue to farm on city land behind my house, can I be charged with theft if I go into their garden and pick their vegetables? Can they claim ownership of these vegetables that they planted on city land.

I used to be an attorney and these are my thoughts which are not to be taken as legal advice. I do not think you should go into their garden and/or pick their vegetables unless you have written permission from the city (the owner of the property as you stated) to do so. As far as whether they can claim ownership of the vegetables this does depend on what agreements they have or may not have with the city and the law in the applicable jurisdiction. In many places there are laws that allow a non-owner to acquire ownership of land if the non-owner behaves in certain ways with respect to the land and the true owner does nothing about it for a certain period of time. Does the city know what is going on with its land? You might also look into your rights under nuisance law if the activities are creating a "nuisance" as that term is defined in your jurisdiction. This has more to do with your rights to quiet enjoyment of your property rather than ownership issues.
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Re: any lawyers?

Postby slowskid on May 17th, 2010, 12:43 pm

Hi jro

I'm sure the city has no idea what they are doing. No one has access to this land except through the residents back yards. They have just decided that since no one is using this land, they are going to farm it. The original plan when this area was first developed twenty years ago was that the city planned to put a walking trail back there. I don't think they've abandoned that plan but the local government has probably postponed putting in the trail in order to balance their budget. When the blackberry bushes were there, I could pick the blackberries, so why not their crops. I know there is no agreement with the city because my next door neighbour would have told me if that was so. My only other option would be to report them to the city officials but I really don't want to do that. As long as they keep their garden behaind their own homes, I don't care. I just don't like that they are taking over the entire greenbelt.

Sandra
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Re: any lawyers?

Postby jro on May 17th, 2010, 2:46 pm

I understand the difficulty of your situation. If you want to learn more about your rights or the legal doctrines relevant to the situation, I would suggest you look up or google the terms "adverse possession" and "nuisance law" and the name of your jurisdiction. This should give you a sense of what rules might apply and whether there are any time limits (also known as statutes of limitations) placed on your ability to get relief if you were to seek it in the future. Picking their vegetables without their permission may or may not be a crime but would potentially create a lot of animosity which you seem to want to avoid. Here in California there is a piece of land in a very urban area near where I work that was owned by the city but taken over by residents for use as an urban garden. When the city tried to take it back, there were huge protests. Darrel Hannah, the actress from the movie Splash, climbed a tree in the garden and refused to come down. The whole ordeal almost made it impossible for me to get to work that day.
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Re: any lawyers?

Postby slowskid on May 17th, 2010, 6:55 pm

While I applaud them for the work they have done clearing the land and planting their vegetable garden, I think they have gone overboard. The lots here are 50 feet wide and their garden spans the back of three lots, so if they had kept it small I wouldn't be concerned but it's their total disregard for other neighbours. They never asked me if I minded if they planted behind my house. I have cats who might have liked to roam in the greenbelt but now I don't allow them to go out there for fear that they will disturb the neighbour's garden. Also what if I had young boys that would want to play in the greenbelt or build a fort? It's like private property back there now, although I know they have no legal right to that land.

Sandra
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