The Village of Miami Shores doesn’t like vegetables – at least if they’re growing in the front yard. And Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Monica Gordo agrees.
Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll had grown various crops – about 75 varieties, at various times – in their front yard for 17 years. But an ordinance that the Miami Shores Village Council passed in 2013 outlawed front-yard gardens.
In November 2013, the couple sued the village, claiming that the ordinance violated their property, as well as constitutional, rights, since non-edible plants – as well as fruit trees – are OK to grow in the front yard.
Richard Sarafan, Miami Shores’ village attorney, argued, “Aesthetics and uniformity are legitimate government purposes. Not every property can lawfully be used for every purpose.”
Ari Bargil, the attorney for the married couple, told the judge, “We’re not saying you can do anything you want on your property. We are simply saying you can grow vegetables on your property, and that is protected by the Constitution.”
Code Enforcement Board of Miami Shores speaks
The minutes of the village’s Code Enforcement Board meeting of July 11, 2013, posted on Miami Shores’ website, contain the following (“Carroll” is misspelled as “Caroll” several times): “code officer Anthony Flores states vegetable gardens are only permitted in the rear yard and Mr. and Mrs. Caroll’s front yard is almost completely covered by a vegetable garden. Pictures are presented to board. … Chairman asked what type of plants/vegetables where (sic) growing and staff and Mr. and Mrs. Caroll confirmed that there are strawberries, scallions, there was broccoli/lettuce type of vegetable at one point in time and other vegetables.”
In August, facing $50-a-day fines, the couple dug up their garden.
The Institute for Justice, based in Virginia, is representing Ricketts and Carroll. A post on its website quotes Ricketts’ response to the Aug. 25 ruling. “I am disappointed … My garden not only provided us with food, but it was also beautiful and added character to the community. I look forward to continuing this fight and ultimately winning so I can once again use my property productively instead of being forced to have a useless lawn.”
The village’s ordinance allows fruit trees as well as yard decorations, the couple’s attorney, Bargil, said after the ruling. “If Hermine and Tom wanted to … display pink flamingos, Miami Shores would have been completely fine with it. They should be equally free to grow food for their own consumption, which they did for 17 years before the village forced them to uproot the very source of their sustenance.”
The Institute of Justice’s motto is “Litigating for Liberty.”