City officials in Miami Shores Village, FL threatened a couple with steep daily fines until they agreed to uproot a vegetable garden they had been cultivating for nearly two decades. Now, the couple is taking the city to court for violating their right to privacy.
This May, the city revised its zoning code to “protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village” and eliminate aesthetic blemishes, according to Watchdog.org. Oddly, the code specifically prohibits vegetable plants in front yards, but allows for trees, fruit plants, and kitsch items like pink flamingos and garden gnomes.
Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, who spent 17 years raising an extensive garden not just as a hobby but to feed themselves, fell victim to this new regulation. City officials informed Ricketts and Carroll that their food source was illegal and needed to be removed, or else the couple would face a $50 fine every day that the garden remained. The couple explained that their garden could not be relocated to the back yard, because it does not receive enough sunlight to sustain their production. They also made multiple formal requests to be allowed to keep their garden, but were denied by the code enforcement board.
The Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm, announced that it is representing the couple in a case a against Miami Shores. An IJ press release states that “Miami Shores will have to prove that its ban promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”
Miami Shores Village Attorney Richard Sarafan told The Miami Herald that people turning their yards into gardens is “not harmonious with our community. This is not an agricultural zoning area.”
IJ's stance, on the other hand, is that “government has no legitimate interest in preventing people from seeing vegetables.” The law firm also believes the law is explicitly on the couple's side, because “Hermine and Tom’s fundamental right to put their property to peaceful, productive use is guaranteed by the Florida Constitution’s Basic Rights Clause.”
Ari Bargil, IJ's lead counsel on the case, explained to Watchdog.org, “We’re not suing for money. We’re asking the court to rule that this law is unconstitutional so Hermine and Tom can plant their garden again.”