Florida Lawmakers Lift Front Yard Garden Ban

Miami Shores residents Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll were cited by the city for their front yard vegetable garden. By Walter MichotMiami Herald Staff

For 17 years, husband and wife Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts tended a garden in the front of their home. During that time there were no problems with neighbors or the local government of Miami Shores, Florida. They grew anything one could imagine; it was a beautiful, plentiful garden.


The Ban

The “Garden Police” got involved, and things took a turn away from a happy garden in May of 2013. The couple received a courtesy notice from a code inspector telling them their garden violated the law and they needed to remove it. The crime was that their garden was in the front yard, not the back. The couple only planted it in the front because the backyard faced north and didn’t get enough sunshine to encourage growth. The front yard proved to be the best option.


Shortly after that first warning, the village council passed a new zoning code saying that vegetable gardens could only be located in the back yard as well. Tom and Hermine ignored the new law, and the council soon found them to be in violation. The village subjected the two to a $50 a day fine. Unable to afford the mounting fines, they had to uproot their garden.


The Battle

In November of 2013, Carroll and Ricketts filed a complaint against the village claiming the new law was illegal. They felt a garden was far more pleasing to look at than the boats, cars, and RVs that littered their neighbors’ yards. Their attorney, Ari Bargel, argued that such a ban was ambiguous and enforcing it was in the eye of the beholder. However, circuit court judge Monica Gordo ruled that the ban didn’t infringe on anyone’s fundamental rights. The 3rd District Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court agreed with that ruling, leaving Tom and Hermine out of options and out of luck.

While the case was ultimately lost in the courts, after six years of arguments, it gained enough attention with state lawmakers for them to consider making a change. After much deliberation, the front yard garden ban was lifted state-wide. Republican senator Bob Bradley called the law a “vast overreach” and even sponsored the new bill. Bradley commented, “It is our role, our duty to review decisions that are made in the courts that uphold local government actions that violate property rights in the State of Florida … When you own a piece of property, you should be able to grow food on that property for your family’s consumption.”


Although they lifted the ban, it’s not a complete win for property rights. It only preempts local government rules that may restrict garden locations and doesn’t apply to homeowner’s associations or similar groups.