What grows in a toilet and is worth (at least) $7 million?

What grows in a toilet and is worth (at least) $7 million?
One of Hank Robar's toilet gardens, as seen in 2015. (Source: WWNY)

POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - Hank Robar will tell you what the village of Potsdam did to him...stinks.

Robar’s long-running battle with village officials has now entered federal court, where Robar is suing the mayor, the deputy mayor, the village administrator and the village’s code enforcement officer.

He’s suing because the village has ordered Robar to remove his infamous toilet gardens, which are exactly what they sound like - old toilets repurposed as planters for flowers. They have given Robar until September 1 to remove the toilets from seven properties he owns.

The village says the toilets are junk. Robar says they’re art.

In order to stop the village, Robar filed a lawsuit in federal court in Syracuse, seeking at least $7 million from the village.

All this got started 15 years ago, when Robar tried to sell property he owns on Market Street to someone who was going to open a Dunkin’ Donuts. But the village wouldn’t grant the permits needed, and the deal fell through.

To protest, Robar put out the first of his toilet gardens. It was, the lawsuit says, “a political protest.”

But then, Robar kind of fell in love with the toilet gardens.

“Whenever Mr. Robar was outside working on his lawn, passing cars would honk, smile and wave,” according to the lawsuit.

“Thus began Mr. Robar’s career as an artist.'

The lawsuit says the toilets are a protest, but as important “they express Mr. Robar’s belief that beauty can be found in the simplest and strangest items” and “they express the fun, bright and unique character of Mr. Robar’s hometown and community.”

The lawsuit charges the village passed a special “Junk Storage Law” - not once, but twice - just to target Robar.

7 News reached out to the people named in the lawsuit - Mayor Ron Tischler, Deputy Mayor Steven Warr, Code Enforcement Officer Lisa Newby and Village Administrator Gregory Thompson. Tischler and Thompson responded, and said that based on advice from their lawyer, the village has no comment. Newby said she had no comment “at this time.”

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