A closely watched court case concerning front-yard gardens in Miami Shores, Florida, has finally received a court hearing, and the city’s attorney showed no signs of backing down.
Circuit Judge Monica Gordo heard a challenge June 8 to the Miami Shores ordinance that allows fruit trees and plastic flamingos in front yards but bans vegetables.
“There certainly is no fundamental right to grow vegetables in your front yard,” Miami Shores attorney Richard Sarafan told the judge. “Aesthetics and uniformity are legitimate government purposes. Not every property can lawfully be used for every purpose.”
The attorney for the couple at the heart of the case disagreed.
“We’re not saying you can do anything you want on your property,” attorney Ari Bargil of the Institute for Justice told Gordo, according to the Miami Herald. “We are simply saying you can grow vegetables on your property and that is protected by the Constitution.”
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s interview with Bargil here.)
Bargil is representing property owners and married couple Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, who – as Off The Grid News reported – were ordered by the city to tear out their vegetable garden.
The couple grew vegetables in the front yard for 17 years until the Miami Shores village government passed an ordinance banning front yard vegetable growing. Ricketts and Carroll were facing a $50-a-day fine.
“There is no vegetable ban in Miami Shores,” Sarafan said. “It’s a farce, a ruse.”
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Miami Shores’ residents are free to grow vegetables as long as they stay in the backyard, Sarafan told Gordo. But Ricketts and Carroll contend that their back yard does not get enough sunlight to grow a garden, and that their front yard is the only option.
The case is significant because it could establish a legal precedent that property owners have the right to grow vegetables.
The Institute contends that the village violated the Florida state Constitution’s privacy clause, which bans arbitrary government interference in private activities.
The issue is important because several local governments across the country have tried to ban front-yard vegetable gardens, Institute for Justice Communications Coordinator Matt Powers noted.
The most outrageous case occurred in Oak Park, Michigan, where city officials threatened to jail Julie Bass for planting vegetables in her front yard in 2011.
“These incidents demonstrate a disconcerting trend in local governance, as city councilmembers are increasingly seeking to regulate even the most harmless uses of property,” Powers wrote at the Institute’s website.
Gordo will make a ruling in the case sometime in the next few weeks, The Miami Herald reported.
“Come by when we win the case,” Carroll told reporters after the hearing, “eggplants on us.”
That meal might be years away if the legal battle drags on.
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