Unless you've been stuck in the trunk of Buddy Dyer's Chevy Tahoe, you've no doubt heard the mayor preach the virtues of sustainability.
He spent much of his last "State of Downtown" address touting everything from Orlando's LED traffic lights to new recycling bins and electric-car charging stations. (Ahem ... no mention of his own gas guzzler.)
Dyer presided over the construction of the first NBA arena to achieve gold LEED certification with its ultra-low-flow toilets and specially insulated roof.
On Friday, City Hall even hosted a sort of environmental extravaganza in which it encouraged the temporary transformation of its parking spaces into park space.
So Buddy must really have his organic cotton shorts in a wad over how he's being portrayed as the anti-green meanie out to destroy the large, bountiful front-yard vegetable garden of a College Park couple.
The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and other national media have described the city's reaction to the code-violating garden as everything from a war against eco-friendly urban homesteaders to a rejection of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign for local, healthful foods.
Oh, the urbanity!
Because that's what this is about. Dyer has spent years picking off the low-hanging fruit of environmentalism.
New buildings that meet special water and energy standards. Mass transit. Even soon-to-be-installed solar-powered public art.
Now we're getting to the hard stuff.
If Dyer thought rallying support for a new Orlando Magic arena and the SunRail commuter train was tough, just wait until he has to convince legions of homeowners that green, carpetlike St. Augustine is no longer best for their neighborhood's appearance or property values.
That day is coming.
Jason and Jennifer Helvenston, the front-yard gardeners, represent the new frontier for cities that are serious about sustainability.
To be true to its progressive image, Orlando must make sure the fine print of its city codes — which, by the way, are far more likely to impact residents' daily lives than public art — matches its big-picture, eco-friendly message.
The Helvenstons caught Orlando off guard. It's typical of government's slow reaction time to what's really happening on the streets — or front yards.
Now instead of a bastion of eco pros with Dyer at the helm, the city looks like a neophyte struggling to find the electric car's outlet.
The Municipal Planning Board will consider this week changes to the code to specifically allow front-yard gardens, though even those rules would require the Helvenstons to downsize theirs.
The Helvenstons don't want any limits on the size and scope of their garden.
The nearby property owner who complained in the first place wants the garden scaled back or fenced, an option the Helvenstons say is too expensive and unnecessary.
His complaint centered on the garden's impact to his property values. Setting aside that he lives next to Interstate 4 and the lawns of the other surrounding homes are a far cry from Leu Gardens, he does have a point.
The Helvenstons have a front-yard garden because their backyard is too small and doesn't get enough sun.
What if someone decides his backyard is too small for a chicken coop — which the city allows in backyards in another nod to the local-food movement — and builds a house for his birds in the front instead?
There are any number of scenarios to work the NIMFY crowd into a lather.
The point is that rules are in place for a reason. The Helvenstons' garden looks charming in front of their quaint blue cottage. Someone else's veggie patch may be an eyesore.
It's possible that one day we'll look back on this era of perfectly manicured grass and be shamed by our wastefulness of space, water and fertilizer.
But that day won't come until cities such as Orlando realize that true sustainability starts at home. Or until homeowners get used to more than turf grass in the front yard.
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