When a town resident decides to convert their lawn into native plants, it can strike fear into the hearts of town officials. While a fantastic way to provide pollinator habitat, it can lead to unhappy neighbors and conflicts with the town code. If your town isn’t clear on their goals for protecting pollinators with code enforcement, you can wind up with a lot of stress all around. So what can you do instead?
Decide What You Want
The best way is always to avoid problems in the first place. That means your town needs to decide what you want in terms of pollinators. Some towns want to dip a toe in the waters by allowing only clearly intentional pollinator gardens. Others are happy to give residents free range to plant native as much as they like.
What is right for one town may not be right for another. And there may be considerable lack of awareness in town officials regarding ways of supporting pollinators. That’s where a goal-setting process can be very useful.
For instance, I present my clients with a variety of pro-pollinator actions they can take, based on what numerous municipalities around the country have been implementing. Once the town sees what is possible, it becomes easier to prioritize and make choices. That is the best way to begin, and it leads to the clearest policies and ordinances.
Eventually, though, someone is going to run afoul of your code. Maybe they’ve let their lawn grow in but haven’t really planted native species, which violates your pollinator codes. Or maybe they created a pollinator garden but then let it go, and now it’s sprawling all over the sidewalk.
Whatever problems occur, you want to respond with education as much as possible, not punishment. Help the resident understand why what they are doing isn’t working. Then show them what would. Direct them to the resources or actions they need to rectify the situation.
The same goes for neighbors who call and complain about a pollinator garden that is completely in line with the town code. Often they are uninformed about pollinators and are worried that their neighborhood is not being maintained. Help them understand and reassure them about their property values (water-saving native plantings can actually increase curb appeal).
If your town doesn’t have enough staff to enforce pollinator code, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore pollinators. Instead, get some outside help, just as you do with your engineering or legal concerns. You can work with a consultant as needed to address questions and help create positive solutions when problems arise. Even if you have no one in your immediate area who can help, you can still get support. All it takes is a few photos and a Zoom meeting to bring a consultant up to speed and get their assistance.
Town Code Needs to Protect Pollinators
Just as towns need to protect their open spaces and forests, they also need to protect their pollinators. By clarifying your goals, emphasizing education, and getting outside help when you need it, your town can make great progress in protecting pollinators with code enforcement.
Photo by Spencer DeMera on Unsplash