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After a woman's impromptu plan for a potato garden on a privately owned vacant lot got uprooted, Calgary's mayor said property rights have to be respected. (CBC)

Calgary's mayor says if people have concerns about a vacant lot they should complain to the city rather than take matters into their own hands.

Naheed Nenshi was commenting Wednesday after Donna Clarke — frustrated that a parcel of land was sitting unused in her neighbourhood — planted potatoes in colourfully-painted old tires she put on the lot without getting permission.

Bylaw officials told Clarke she was trespassing and must remove the garden adjacent to 17th Avenue southwest in Scarboro, which she said was intended to help feed needy Calgarians.  

A spokesman for the Vancouver firm which owns the lot told CBC News the company wants the garden removed from the land and that new development plans will be presented in the coming months.

Nenshi said he encourages Calgarians to talk with each other if they have concerns or ideas for their neighbourhood.

"I really had hoped that there would be a win-win here, that there's an opportunity for conversation because if they're not doing anything with the lot this summer and you want to plant a temporary garden, you know, what's the harm? But you have to ask permission. It's people's private property," he stressed.

"If they're paying taxes on it and if they're keeping it up and there's no bylaw complaints, you can't just go and start planting things," he added.

Nenshi said if a vacant lot has tall grass or weeds or has become a safety concern, residents can call 311 to file a complaint.