Art, history or an eyesore?
Placement of a 1961 farm tractor in front of an Elkhart, Ind., home is spurring talk among members of one family over what homeowners should and shouldn't be able to put in their yards.
"More than anything, it's just a part of my heritage, part of my family," said Madison Blue, a registered nurse. The Case 830 tractor, bought by great-grandfather Fred Blue and used on his Carroll County farm, had sat in her front yard since late June.
"To me it's a piece of art. I just don't understand it," said Dave Blue, Madison Blue's father.
City officials, though, took another view and called on Madison Blue in an Aug. 18 letter to remove the implement, saying its presence amid homes violated the city's zoning ordinances. "It is our code. It is why we are zoned," Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore said in an email. "To keep our neighborhoods as nice as we can."
The ordinance officials cited prohibits parking of "commercial vehicles" in residential zones.
"It's not just aesthetics," Vlado Vranjes, the city's legal counsel, said. Commercial vehicles "can have an adverse effect" in residential neighborhoods. "You want to make sure residentially zoned properties are used for residential purposes."
As of Thursday, the tractor had been removed from Blue's yard. Speaking Wednesday, when it still sat in front of her home, Jackson Boulevard traffic whizzing by, she and her father indicated that removal would be the likely outcome. "We live in a civil society," said Dave Blue.
Still, they weren't happy, and the elder Blue, who recalls riding on the tractor as a child, said he hoped the flap would spur debate, possibly on tweaking the city's rules or even selection of a different mayoral administration in November elections.
"I understand following the rules," said Madison Blue. "I don't understand following the rules just because."
'A Sentimental Thing'
For many years Fred Blue used the red and beige tractor for cultivating soybeans, corn, wheat and oats on his 180-acre Carroll County farm. It was used as a farm tool until 1986 and remains operable.
The tractor eventually went into storage, until Dave Blue got to talking to his daughter about the vehicle in June. They decided to pull it out of its resting spot and place it in the yard of her home in the 3500 block of East Jackson Boulevard, more as a decorative item than anything. Dave Blue took a bright orange 1951 Case DC tractor out of storage and put it outside the home of his son, Dane Blue, further east in Elkhart County along S.R. 120.
"Then it just became a sentimental thing," Madison Blue said. At a garage sale she recently held, she said, the tractor jogged pleasant memories for numerous visitors who had lived on farms of their own.
"I think it's beautiful. It think it should stay here. I think everybody should have a tractor in their front yard," said Starr Robinson, Madison Blue's next-door neighbor. Robinson can understand having to move it if it were "an old crappy car and it was junk, but it's not and it's restored."
Dave Blue questions whether the tractor fits the description of a commercial vehicle as defined by the city in the zoning ordinance officials cited in seeking the tractor's removal. "It's an arguable point," he said.
Madison Blue, for her part, just doesn't understand the harm the old tractor was causing.
"I don't understand what I'm doing wrong by displaying something that means something to me and my family," she said. "This is my property. I own the property. What is it doing to Elkhart County that negatively affects it?"