An abbreviated list of items that homeowners have been asked to kindly remove from their front yards by HOAs and/or city code officials: Vegetables, treehouses, angel statuary, scrap metal and deceased spouses.

Today, we're adding curbside lending libraries to the list.

In an incredibly frustrating story out of the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, the parents of 9-year-old Spencer Collins were recently ordered to clear away their son’s Little Free Library as it, despite being not much larger than a standard mailbox or a bird house, violates city building code that strictly prohibits unattached accessory structures. If the Collins family did not comply and promptly move the enclosed library — of the “take a book, leave a book” style — from their yard after receiving a “courtesy notice” from the city, they’d be slapped with an official citation and fine. For now, the once well-stocked front yard library lives in the garage.

“We empathize with them, but we still have to follow the rules. We need to treat everybody the same. So we can't say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries — we think they're cute — so we ignore it. We can't do that,” explains city of Leawood Community Development Director Richard Coleman to KMBC News.

Apparently, Collins’ Little Free Library did indeed receive a couple of complaints from (horrible, no-good) neighbors, which prompted the city to take action and issue the notice. The library has been up for about a month.

I can totally understand this being an issue if the Collins family had plopped down a full-on accessory dwelling unit in their front yard. But it really does seem a stretch to deem a glorified bookshelf as an actual structure subject to city building code — it’s not like Tom and Lucy Little were living in there or anything. Also, I highly doubt that this enthusastic young bookworm was constantly restocking his adorable/illicit blue book box with “Tropic of Cancer” and the complete works of Nicholson Baker.

However aggrevating, this brush with bureaucratic nonsense has empowered young Spencer Collins to fight back and launch a Facebook campaign urging Leawood to amend its code to allow for Little Free Libraries to be placed in front of residences.

Collins and his parents will also be on hand to discuss the issue at city hall next month. Says Collins: "I would tell them why it's good for the community and why they should drop the law. I just want to talk to them about how good it is."

And more than a few folks totally have Collins’ back. Writes a recent editorial published in the Kansas City Star:

Good luck to the city of Leawood as it attempts to extract itself from the tempest created when a family’s front-yard lending library was found to be in violation of the city code.

The Little Free Library issue will be addressed as a “special business item” at a city council Meeting on July 7. Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn notes that “I’m hopeful there will be some resolution. It will take a majority of the council to create an exception from the ordinance.”

“We want to work with the city to create positive change in this. This wouldn’t be a problem if we lived just north, in Prairie Village or KCMO. And we’ve only heard positive feedback,” adds Spencer’s father, Brian Collins.

On that note, according to Little Free Library, the Wisconsin-based nonprofit behind the curbside lending library movement that also sells build-it-yourself kits and pre-constructed book shelters and accessories, there are about 30 registered book-filled boxes in the greater Kansas City area. Worldwide, there are 15,000 strong spread across 62 countries.

Via [Kansas City Star], [KMBC]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

9-year-old's front-yard library deemed illegal
Spencer Collins, a pint-sized bookworm from the Kansas City 'burbs, is taking on city hall after being asked to dismantle his curbside book depository.