Front-yard vegetable gardening in Miami Shores remains squashed.
A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday upheld the village’s much-maligned ordinance banning the practice. In a 10-page ruling filled with legal analysis on the definition of vegetables, Circuit Judge Monica Gordo acknowledged she wasn’t quite sure how the gardens ruin the aesthetics of a neighborhood.
But she got to the root of the law: Miami Shores still has every right to decide front-yard veggies make a neighborhood ugly.
“Given the high degree of deference that must be given to a democratically elected governmental body ... Miami Shores’ ban on vegetable gardens outside of the backyard passes constitutional scrutiny,” Gordo wrote.
The decision capped a three-year legal battle for Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, who sued the village after they were ordered to get rid of their beloved garden of okra, kale, lettuce, onions, spinach and a dozen or more varieties of Asian cabbage or face fines of up to $50 a day.
“I am disappointed by today’s ruling,” Ricketts said. “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 upscale village in Northeast Miami-Dade has long insisted it had every right to regulate the look of the community. At a hearing in June, the village’s attorney said vegetable gardens are fine in Miami Shores, as long as they remain out of sight in the backyard.
“There is no vegetable ban in Miami Shores,” village attorney Richard Sarafan told the judge. “It's a farce. A ruse.”
Judge Gordo agreed, saying that the village was well within its rights. She noted that Ricketts and Carroll weren’t without options.
“They can petition the Village Council to change the ordinance. They can also support candidates for the Council who agree with their view that the ordinance should be repealed,” Gordo wrote.
The married couple was represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm, which called the ruling a “blow to property rights.”
“If Hermine and Tom wanted to grow fruit or flowers or display pink flamingos, Miami Shores would have been completely fine with it,” said their lawyer, Ari Bargil. “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.”