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UPDATE: South Pittsburg Housing Authority says tenants can keep landscaping after all

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SOUTH PITTSBURG, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Some South Pittsburg Housing Authority residents ripped up their personal landscaping when they heard about a new policy but it turns out they didn't have to. 

That's according to the housing authority board chairman who says the confusion may have been politically motivated. 

Effective June 1, 2016 the housing authority board passed a new policy banning all plants, trees, shrubbery and gardens from tenant's yards. 

"It creates a hazard and also a lot  more time involved in trying to trim around it all," South Pittsburg Housing Authority Board Chairman Virgil Holder said. 

But Holder said the new policy has come with a lot of confusion and that it only applies to tenants who move in after June 1st. 

"We will have them there as long as they live in that unit. When they move out of the unit or move somewhere, then we would go in while it was vacant," he added. 

Holder said current residents will be grandfathered in and the policy won't apply until they move. 

Channel 3 reviewed the resolution and the notices that were given to tenants in April and found nothing that addresses current resident landscaping. 

In fact, the policy states "all landscaping to be removed unless planted by the housing authority staff."

"We are not here to upset our residents we're here to take and make their lives better and also our community," he added. 

South Pittsburg Mayor Jane Dawkins is weary about the resolution's wording and has spoken against the policy to Channel 3 before. 

"I really hope they will look at this again and stop this now," she said. 

Holder is running against Dawkins for the mayor's seat and believes the confusion may be politically motivated. 

"It was nothing purely but a political move on trying to advance a personal political career in my opinion at the expense of the housing authority residents," Holder said. 

Accusations Dawkins denies. 

The housing authority will hold a meeting Monday, at 5:00 p.m. (CST) to answer any questions and clear up any confusion. 


PREVIOUS STORY: A lot of hard work and TLC goes into gardens this time of year. But some longtime residents of public housing in South Pittsburg are horrified that their special plants are being ripped out, roots and all.

A new policy, implemented by the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, took effect on Wednesday. It says that all residents' personal landscaping and gardens must go.

Sally McMillan said beautiful rose bushes used to line the front of her home.

"One was there, one was there," she said, pointing around her porch. "Another one was around the house. It looked real pretty."

But now, her yard is completely bare.

"They're just taking them out. They didn't want them here," said Sally, who lives in public housing.

According to South Pittsburg Housing Authority's new landscaping policy, all plants, trees, flowers, shrubbery, or gardens must be removed from tenant's yards.

Many families are upset about the new rule.

"Her yard ain't supposed to look like that because she lives in public housing? That's bull," said Angela Kelso, a concerned family member.

"It's their home. They're paying to live here," Kelso said. "They already can't smoke in them, and now they can't decorate the outside. What? Is it gonna be a prison camp pretty soon?"

Another woman, in her 80s, has an entire garden outside her home. Her family went to South Pittsburg's Mayor for help.

"A lot of the folks told me they were afraid to question (the policy) because it might cause them to lose their units," Mayor Jane Dawkins told Eyewitness News.

According to documents, the only plants than can stay are those that were planted by the Housing Authority.

However, residents can keep some plants. The policy allows for potted plants or vegetables, as long as they can fit on either the front or back porch.

"I really hope that they will look at this again," Dawkins said. "That they will stop things now."

As of Wednesday night, Channel 3 had not heard back from the Housing Authority regarding the new policy on plants. The Mayor hopes officials will reconsider or modify the new rule.

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