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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, December 02, 2013

Charges Against Front Yard Gardener Dropped

Karl Hirsch
In October, I told you about Lehigh Township front yard gardener Karl Hirsch. Thirteen years ago, he vowed to provide his wife and children with the most nutritious food he could find. He found it, too, in the front yard of his Church Road property. He grew everything, from potatoes to Jerusalem artichoke and even Pawpaws, George Washington's favorite desert. For his trouble, Hirsch was convicted of violating the Township's weed ordinance. But in an early Christmas present, Lehigh Township has dropped the case.

Though convicted and fined by District Judge Robert Hawke, Hirsch appealed. Then prominent municipal attorney Gary Asteak, reading about the case, agreed to represent Hirsch pro bono. After discussing the matter with Lehigh Township Solicitor Dave Backenstoe, the case has been dropped. To save face for a zoning officer who failed to do her job, Backenstoe states that all weeds have now been removed. The truth is there were never any weeds there. Just crops. But the important point is that the charges have been dropped and Hirsch is free to continue growing food instead of grass, which Hirsch calls a "green desert."

Unknown to Hirsch, a petition drive was organized on his behalf by Freya Harris, called "Let Karl Hirsch Grow His Garden." He collected nearly 15,000 signatures worldwide.

Stefano Stronati, from Italy, is one of them. He suggests that we in Northampton County should have more sex. "It works, trust me," he says. I'm all for that, Stefano.

A Brit, Bethany Heard, gives a very English response. "As long as he keeps it tidy, and everything grown in it is legal, where's the harm?" Jolly good. Another Englishman waxed on about his delicious nettle soup, although I believe most British cuisine was invented on a dare.

Then we have a Russian, Julia Sergueeva, complain about "zoning gibberish." This is one former (wink, wink) Commie who should join the tea party.

Priscilla Jinabhai, from South Africa, said it best. "We need more Karl Hirshes in this world."


Anonymous said...

any sex would be more for you

Anonymous said...

Why is the Zoning Officer getting off easy on this one? Before bringing charges should she not have verified whether the weeds are weeds? Letting the courts figure this out is the wrong way of thinking and has harmed this taxpaying system. Using zoning in this way to appease the reported complainer is not right. The Township and Zoning Officer should be held accountable.

Anonymous said...

government egos at their worse

judicial arrogance

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:00, there is no doubt in my mind that this zoning officer did not do her job correctly. I thought she declined to discuss the case with me bc the matter was on appeal, but she spoke about it to the Morning Call, which decided to cover this story. That is bush. She did not inspect the property before filing charges, as she promised Hirsch she would do. If I were her employer, I'd want a real explanation for her lousy performance. Lots of people need jobs.

Peeta Mellark - District 12 said...

It's obvious the Town Solicitor knew they didn't have a leg to stand on upon appeal. All involved in the prosecution should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

More than the Zoning Officer needs to be questioned about the matter. Judge Hawke should state on what basis of law and evidence he used to convict and fine Mr. Hirsch.

If Hawke continues to make decisions based on simply kowtowing to the Lehigh Township desires, then he will always remain a small town Judge Roy Bean.

I'm happy for Mr. Hirsch that he was vindicated and pleased that Mr. Asteak was kind enough to represent him pro bono.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peeta, I was not at the hearing, so what I tell you is hearsay. But what I am told is that Hawke asked Hirsch if he had a picture of his property, and he pulled one out to show the judge. The judge looked at it and said, "You're guilty."

I don't have a problem with the judge blowing a call. he can't get them all right. I do have a problem with the zoning officer, who did not do her job and did not respond to my call and email. She apparently hoped this would go away. She was wrong.

Anonymous said...

I have not read their Zoning Ordinance but unless it lists specific noxious weeds that are prohibited, then it is up to the discretion of the Zoning Officer. My guess is that the Zoning Ordinance is not specific enough.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is a gender bias involved here, as both the complainent and the zoning officer are women. As I understand it, Mr Hirsch's wife is also a property owner, but was not made a part of the action.