Big Government

Government Tells Couple To Uproot Their Garden or Face Fines


Credit: Institute for Justice

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 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, "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."


NEXT: Billy Graham Hospitalized with Respiratory Problems

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village” and eliminate aesthetic blemishes, according to

    Who passed this zoning code, at the behest of who, voted in by which residents?

    I’m smelling seriously unintended consequences of something the citizens demanded.

    1. If the garden has been there for 17 years, isn’t it part of that distinctive character?

      1. Or the aesthetic blemish that needs to be eliminated?

    2. This is typical Florida. There are people here who worry about their property values when their neighbors neglect the lawn for 2 weeks. There are places that ban parking pickup trucks in your driveway….it’s nuts.

      1. Typical everywhere. The government receives revenue as a sales tax that would have been collected if you sold your property; despite that you haven’t.

        And on the otherwise, home equity is a piggy bank in which a single property can be pledged as collateral for an infinite number of loans. And, hey, that minimum monthly Visa payment isn’t going to pay itself.

        I say honor the Kelo decision with the full force of Mencken’s ‘good and hard.’ If the regulations are at all related to property values — in any manner whatsoever — then the limit of the government’s interest is an eminent domain taking. Let the government purchase the property for private resale in a perfectly legit manner, or sue the piss out of them for an illegal taking.

        1. Yeah, it seems like a taking to me as well.

  2. I wonder which petty bureaucrat they pissed off to make this happen.

    1. Or neighbor.

      1. Good call.

        They would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling neighbors.

        I’m surprised playa manhattan hasn’t gotten a petty bureaucrat to rain hellfire down on us for the state of our front lawn.

      2. Or neighbor.

        Nikki gets the cookie.

      3. Got to share the tomatoes, kale, and snap peas to avoid this sort of thing. wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

    2. My town pays a guy to drive around looking for shit like this. I believe they give him 50K a year and a car.

      1. That’s the sort of shit that tar and feathering used to discourage.

      2. Would a de facto fine by breaking his stuff up to his realized income be a violation of the NAP?

        1. Yes. Just stop his paycheck. It’ll just work itself out naturally. We always like to avoid confrontation whenever possible.

  3. t “Miami Shores will have to prove that its ban promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”

    I don’t even understand this. There is no such thing as a “compelling governmental interest”. There is only the interest of the people, the government is the vehicle which enacts or protects that interest.

    Or have I been asleep for 100 years?

    1. Unfortunately, it seems to be established case law that “compelling governmental interest” somehow overrides the Constitution. Otherwise known as the FYTW clause.

      1. It’s dumb, but at least it’s a tough standard for the government to satisfy.

        Rational basis review, on the other hand, is a huge joke.

        “Did congress have a ‘rational basis’* for doing something? No? That’s fine, so long as the government’s lawyers can come up with something years later.”

        *IIRC, a “rational basis” doesn’t have to be rational in any sense of the word. The government just had to be trying to achieve something not otherwise unconstitutional.

        1. ‘*IIRC, a “rational basis” doesn’t have to be rational in any sense of the word. The government just had to be trying to achieve something not otherwise unconstitutional.”


          They do not need to prove that the policy rationally furthers a compelling government interest, merely that the goal they are seeking ras rationally a government goal.

          So in theory you could pass the poverty elimination law which paid contractors to kill poor people so as to reduce the poverty rate and it would pass the rational basis review because lowering the poverty rate is a rational government interest.

          1. Not quite. Rational basis review requires that the law is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. What this means is that there has to be some minimally non-insane ends/means fit.

            Of course, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that no such non-insane ends/means fit exists, but it’s something.

          2. You know who else paid contractors to kill poor people so as to reduce the poverty rate?

      2. It keeps the Florida Constitution from being a suicide pact.

    2. “Or have I been asleep for 100 years?”

      Ah, you fell asleep just as the Wilson administration started and haven’t awakened until now.

      Boy, are you in for a few surprises.

      1. I’m astounded at how easily he’s taken to the internet. You’d think he’d still be at the “My God, there’s a little cinema screen in color and sound on my desk with a typewriter that doesn’t seem to have a slot for paper attached to it!” stage.

          1. They were invented in 1872. Used in offices until the 1990s (or 2000s in you’re Columbia, today if you’re Russia) Put words on paper more legibly than the staff could.

  4. IJ’s stance, on the other hand, is that “government has no legitimate interest in preventing people from seeing vegetables.”

    That someone even has to make an argument like that means all hope is lost.

    1. We’re losing on so many fronts, it’s easy to forget how bad things are at the state and local levels.

      1. Libertarians will start swaying elections any day now. Reason said so.

    2. I don’t know, I think the government has a legitimate interest in preventing your neighbors from seeing you. Especially when you go out in your un-belted robe with nothing else on, screaming “look at my plums, bitches!”

      Oh wait, plums aren’t vegetables. My bad.

        1. Right, right. I meant kimono.

          1. “I’d fuck me.”

            1. It took until now for me to realize that you’re Buffalo Bill. Thanks for the hint. Now put the lotion on your skin or you get the hose again.

            2. Breaking News: SugarFree makes best known case for outlawing all forms of human cloning or mechanical human duplication. Details at 11.

              1. I’ve often contended that one of the great sexual advantages of homosexuality is the far greater chance that you can scream out your own name during sex and it not be weird because you share it with your partner.

                1. Your sentence makes a lot more sense if you replace “homosexuality” with “being a hermaphrodite”. Especially when it comes to you.

                  1. Hermaphrodite is such a limiting word.

                    1. “Genital non-conformist”?

                2. My mother picked out gender-neutral names based on birth order rather than “if it’s a boy I’ll name him x, if it’s a girl I’ll name her y”

                  So I don’t think I’m a useful data point for your contention I know more lady Jessies (or Jessi/Jessy if their mothers desire a life of being a stripper for them) than I do male Jesses.

                  1. How is your sibling Pat doing?

                  2. “My mother picked out gender-neutral names based on birth order”

                    But it turned you queer, man.

                  3. “My mother picked out gender-neutral names based on birth order”

                    But it turned you queer, man.

                  4. My parents gave me a name with two letters switched out from ‘Adam’ because that is what they named my older brother who was stillborn in the last month of pregnancy. I was to get the name too, but my aunt argued with them that it would not be right. Yeah, I’m still creeped out by just knowing that. Think I’ll grab a drink.

      1. Episiarch, your comment lacks proper footnotes.

        You clearly aren’t ready for primetime.

      2. That Which Is Seen And That Which Should Never Ever Be Seen

  5. Crap, I have a tomato plant in my front yard. And, now that I think about it, the banana tree is visible from the front, too (in fact, it (more precisely, they) has two bunches of bananas right now).

    1. I don’t understand how your neighbors can stand to have the sight of your vegetables and fruits inflicted upon them.

      1. I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

        1. I dislike that we made such a similar reference in such a short period of time. One of us is going to have to go home and change.

          1. The influence of the original Scooby-Doo series is total and absolute.

            1. Don’t be a liar, ProL. You were referencing Scrappy-Doo.

              1. That’s where you’re wrong. In a very real and legally actionable way.

                The generation gap between me and my brother is defined by the fact that he watched Scooby-Doo with that abomination, and I did not.

                1. No one believes your lies, ProL.

                  1. You’re about the same generation as my brother. Interesting how quickly you refer to the worst that Scooby had to offer.

                    Looking back, the only thing I liked after the original run were those shows where they’d cross over with Gilligan’s Island or The Addams Family.

                    You know, I completely forgot that there was an The Addams Family cartoon on Saturday mornings until this instant. Strange.

        1. But what about a pointed stick?

    2. Bananas grow on trees?

      1. No, not technically, but they’re very tree-like. What’s the point of confusing people who don’t grow their own bananas?

        1. And yet the monkeys never raid your house? (No racist, I mean the literal be-tailed creatures that roam parts of FL.

          1. Sometimes they visit, asking for a cup of bananas, but no raids per se.

            1. Ah, I was given to believe that they were the cops of the animal kingdom, taking what they want and breaking your stuff because FYTW.

              1. This is inaccurate. As demonstrated by the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, monkeys are the anarchists of the animal kingdom.

      2. I seem to recall banana plants are more closely related to grasses. Oh, and I have to admit I was shocked to see that bananas grow upwards when I first saw a banana plant in the wild.

  6. I’m changing my name to ‘Zenon Evans’ just because it sounds cool. Or, possibly, Evan Zenon, one of the two.

      1. Ya Sugarfree’d the first link.

        1. Nuh-uh. That website apparently doesn’t allow hotlinking. Try this one instead

          Bonus Proto Zoa, who two years prior to this Disney film had acted as “Trent” in the episode The Rock Star on the hit Showtime softcore TV series Hot Springs Hotel.

          1. Your knowledge of 90s softcore cable porn is impressive.

            1. Thank you, I minored in ’90s pornographic studies with my depth in season 3 of The Red Shoe Diaries. I did breadth coursework in mid-’90s Showtime erotica though.

              Probably more useful than my history major.

              1. jesse’s thesis was called “Skinemax: how an HBO subsidiary revolutionized late night fapping, and the B actors who made it happen (with an interview with David Duchovny).”

                1. I’m trying to branch into early 2000s women’s television erotica, but it’s such a competitive academic field that I’m having a hard time getting my paper “Man ass and hands-on-tits: how Bliss (2002-2004, Oxygen Network) brought erotica to basic cable”

                2. David Duchovny and Shannon Tweed in the same movie!! This is my thesis man! This is my closing argument! I CAN STOP WATCHING TV!

            2. Along with his knowledge of Disney movies.

      2. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

        What? Where’s her Uggs? Where’s her circle scarf or North Face fleece vest? Where’s her iPhone?!? Does she even butt-chug?

    1. Enan Zevon

      1. Warren Zevon?

  7. “Miami Shores will have to prove that its ban promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”

    And if it does so prove, then wouldn’t this be a “taking” under eminent domain that entitles the property owner to just compensation?
    I think there would be far fewer outrageous zoning changes if this doctrine could be established and the taxpayers put on notice that there were financial consequences to limiting your neighbor’s use of his property.

  8. I dread the day I have to sell my place and move somewhere where I have neighbors. You people are just awful.

    Anyway, I think Miami Shores Village has a bigger problem here. I don’t believe these two people are married.

    1. I’m fairly certain it is a crime against both nature and the law for mixed race couples to be wed, FoE.

      Clearly they shouldn’t be living in sin, but it’s better than debasing the institution of marriage with miscegenation.

      1. Then mayhaps this is the root of the city’s vendetta against the pair. Play the card, people. That’s what it’s there for!

      1. “they ain’t white! They ain’t white! They ain’t even old timey!”

        1. I have it on good authoritah that one of them boys has sold his soul to the Devil hisself.

          1. Is you is, or is you ain’t my constichensy?

  9. Miami Shores Village Attorney Richard Sarafan told The Miami Herald that people turning their yards into gardens is “not harmonious with our community.

    Know who else promoted a harmonious society?

    1. Chairman Mao Zedong?

      1. Meow Zedong?

        1. What? All cats are our libertarian brothers and sisters! No cat was ever a commie!

          1. Right because no cat has ever tried to kill its human host if the host doesn’t give it food constantly.

            1. The science is settled: cats are merely waiting for the master signal to initiate a worldwide coup.

          2. What? All cats are our libertarian brothers and sisters! No cat was ever a commie!


          3. This is accurate. Cats are individualistic as hell and don’t really need us, they just deign to grace us with their presence in exchange for a life of luxury and if you piss them off they’ll crap in your shoes.

            Dogs on the other hand are collectivist follow the leader types, definite commies there

  10. There’s only one cure for these gardening menaces and their garden blight. Who do these people think they are? What’s in that non-state approved illicit garden? How can we be certain that it won’t harm children?

    Everyone should have a state assigned dwelling. It should be of uniform size and color as approved by central planners. I like gray, as it doesn’t offend. Everyone should also be issued standard uniform, also in gray, and it should be punishable by death to appear in public in anything else. I think that should be enforced in private also, but we have to move forward one step at a time. And it’s just really hard to govern these days, what with teahadist obstructionists around, who we still are not able to send off to camps for the proper reeducation. We can yet achieve social justice and equality, we just have to trust more in our noble central planners.

    1. If you like your veggie garden you can keep it

      1. If I like your veggie garden you can keep it.

  11. Seems like a good legal argument would be that they are landscaping using, in part, edible plants, and then let the government try to defend denying people their aesthetic preferences for what they perceive to be a beautiful landscape.

  12. Ah, the basic rights clause: Have you noticed that particular gem in the Fla Constitution?

    “Basic rights.?All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property; except that the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.”…..b=statutes

    1. Art. 1, sec. 2

    2. PS – notice the reference to *natural* persons, so corporations can’t horn in on the action.

      And without doing any research, I would guess that “aliens ineligible for citizenship” was meant as a euphemism for Asians at a time Asians couldn’t be naturalized.


    1. Mmno, just a couple of petty bureaucrats.

  14. Government won’t rest until we all look like this.

    And the voting public enthusiastically supports it.

    1. That’s the second time that ad’s been linked to in the last few weeks. Mine was the first. Something’s going on to make that ad seem appropriate. I wonder what it is.

  15. Nanny state of the month. Government do-gooders are annoying as hell.

  16. Dude this makes not a lot of sense man.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.