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SOUTH S.L. DROPS PROSECUTION OF POTATO-GROWING LANDSCAPER

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The city is dropping its prosecution of the man some dubbed the potato pest of South Salt Lake.

Truman Cope, 79, was to have been tried this week on charges of violating local landscaping codes by growing spuds and other edible crops in the park strip between the street and sidewalk in front of his house at 234 Truman Ave."We let him go because we felt the courts weren't the best forum to address this matter," said acting City Attorney Kevin Watkins, who made the decision during consultations with new Mayor Randy Fitts.

Watkins said other options are being weighed for resolving what in recent years has become a seasonal Cope vs. City Hall dispute.

Administrators may approach the City Council - with its three new members - for consideration of an ordinance change that would allow vegetable gardens like Cope's. Or Cope could be offered a piece of vacant city ground to move his garden to and might even be asked if he'd consider a part-time post as city gardener in exchange for his promise to quit riling code-enforcement officers with his illegal garden.

Loren Lambert, Cope's Salt Lake attorney who took the gardener's side pro bono, said it was a case of Big Brother gone berserk.

"I guess the city prosecutor got smart and did the right thing," said Lambert.

"I certainly think any government has the right to look out for the health and welfare of everyone but in a situation like this where they're worried about planting vegetables, well, I don't know," said Lambert. "I disagree with the degree government sometimes tries to get involved in people's lives."

Cope in his spat with the city over the years has often invoked the name of God. He said his garden, which fills his front yard too, is there because of the late Spencer W. Kimball, who as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suggested members grow gardens, if possible.

Though most public reaction to the disagreement has been supportive of Cope, some have been critical of him, noting that he has also been cited for letting trash pile up around his house. Others have said he grows his park-strip garden just to bother neighbors who prefer that homeowners on Truman Avenue conform to the same landscaping standards.

It has been noted, too, that the city has helped Cope financially.

Cope won't say for sure whether he will plant another crop this year.

"I kind of want to stay in good with the new mayor, if you know what I mean," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.