A Lewisburg resident has been ordered to dig up the flowers, shrubs and fruit trees he's planted where his property borders Cornersville Road on the south side of town.
Johnny Hill, of 855 Cornersville Road, was called out of his classroom at Forrest School to be told by Eddie McKnight from the local office of the Tennessee Department of Transportation that he had to remove his plantings.
"I'm not going to move my shrubs," said Hill. "I spent a lot of time and money doing this landscaping. I beautified part of the entrance to Lewisburg and now they're telling me to tear it down. If you make me do it, you have to make everyone do it."
"We're not picking on him," said Tony Smithson at the local TDOT office on Fayetteville Highway. "We've had complaints about it. We hated this worse than anything, but we had to look at it as a safety issue. We've made every effort to do the right thing."
"This is state property," said TDOT spokeswoman B. J. Doughty. She explained that 25 feet either side of a road's centerline is a "clear zone." She said they appreciated beautification efforts, but called the rocks that edge Hill's beds "a safety hazard."
"It all boils down to a safety issue," said Doughty. "This should be a grassy shoulder, so that if people run off the road they're not going to hit something."
She said it was not unusual to telephone someone at work with this kind of news.
A follow-up letter dated Nov. 25, 2008, has been sent to Hill by certified mail. It tells him, "You are required to remove your encroachment from the right-of-way by Dec. 9, 2008. If you fail to do so, the Department (of Transportation) may remove the encroachment at your expense."
The letter continues, "Please consider this letter your notice to remove any and all material from state property."
Hill wanted to know why the local TDOT had not said anything to him when he first started working on his yard.
"There's a lot of state's right-of-way," answered Doughty. "We can't stay on top of everything; we rely on homeowners to know where their property lines are."
Hill phoned Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips when he first got the call from TDOT, but Phillips said there was nothing he could do. Hill also placed calls to his state legislators, Eddie Bass and Bill Ketron.
"It's disheartening," Hill said. "It made me feel sick. I guess I need to go live in the country." He's taken the first step by placing a "For Sale by Owner" sign in the front yard.