Green thumb senior refuses request to remove balcony garden

A plant-loving senior living in an apartment building in New Westminster is asking for compassion after a property management company told him to remove the tall plants growing on his balcony. 

Antonio Vieira’s balcony garden is flourishing for the sixth year in a row, but instead of appreciating the simple joys of the harvest, he is caught in a dispute over the garden’s esthetics. 

Vieira, 73, said he received a letter from Martello Property Services Inc. on July 24 citing “balcony cleanliness,” which asked him to remove all plants taller than his balcony railing.

“I feel bad, I cried. It’s all wrong telling me to get rid of my plants,” said Vieira.

Vieira explained his plants are his hobby and his joy.

Vieira stands on his balcony, where he grows tomatoes, beans, and herbs. His suite is at the back of the rental building.  (Enzo Zanatta/CBC news)

“We all, Portuguese immigrants, like to have plants. I have Roman beans, the tall ones. I have Roman beans and tomatoes, the taller ones. The shorter ones are Portuguese herbs for tea.”

He doesn’t understand why he’s been told to clear out the plants. Vieira said his suite faces the back of the building and he hasn’t received any other complaints.

“My neighbours all like my balcony. They say my balcony looks the best around here.”

He treasures his tomatoes — which he uses to make his daily sandwich — and doesn’t want to remove the plants until they can be harvested.

Deadline to remove plants passes

In the letter from Martello Property Services Inc., property manager Heidi Shortreed said the company was aware of “a significant number of tall plants” on Vieira’s balcony.

She pointed to a section of Vieira’s tenancy agreement that says the tenant must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness, and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit and other residential property to which the tenant has access.

Then, in the letter, Shortreed asked Vieira to remove the tall plants.

“As it is required that the exterior of the building maintains a uniform look, we request that you please remove the tallest plants on the balcony by Wednesday, July 29th at 5 p.m., and that you refrain from allowing the plants to grow higher than the balcony railing in the future.” 

The deadline has passed and Vieira is hoping the company will back down.

Vieira’s story was posted on Facebook, prompting numerous people to contact the company, asking it to cut him a break.

When CBC News contacted Martello Property Services, Shortreed said Vieira explained to her that the plants are seasonal and she said the company wasn’t aware they were beans and tomatoes.

Shortreed says she doesn’t see the plants continuing to be an issue but it’s up to the building owner.

At this point, it’s unclear how the situation will end.

Vieira says he just wants to finish growing his vegetables this season. After that, he plans to throw out the plants as he does at the end of every summer.

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