One of the more bizarre powers of local government will likely end this week or next when the Florida House of Representatives votes to make vegetable gardening a right that comes with owning residential property.

City halls and county commissions in Florida have long had the power to prohibit vegetable gardens on residential properties, and that’s exactly what some have done. It means residential property owners can be told their residentially zoned land is off limits to the growing of herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables or anything else that is cultivated for human ingestion. How healthy or how safe is not a consideration.

Last year after residential property owners who were growing vegetables in their front yard were fined $50 a day by the city of Miami Shores until they came into compliance. Florida courts then took their turn on the issue.

The Miami Shores residents challenged the constitutionally of the zoning ordinance.

“The residents challenged the ban (as) a violation of their rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Florida Constitution, as we as their rights to acquire, process and protect property and the right to privacy,” Flordia House documents say.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals upheld the Miami Shores ordinance, saying such zoning provisions are “inherent in the state to promote the general welfare of the people through regulations that are necessary to secure the health, safety, good order (and) general welfare.” The court said the ordinance banning front-yard vegetable gardens “was rationally related to the Villiage code’s design standards and landscaping regulations.”

The Florida  Supreme Court would not review the case, but during the 2018 Florida legislative session, the Senate passed a bill to strip local government of the power to ban growing vegetables on private residential properties. There wasn’t time to pass the bill in the House before adjournment,

This year, Florida’s legislative calendar is shining a light on the vegetables. The Senate, which passed the bill last year, again approved it March 21 on a 35-5 vote. This past Thursday, in a 13-to-1 vote, the House State Affairs Committee sent House Bill 145 to the House for a final floor vote.

With this week and next remaining on the House calendar, there’s time this legislative session to save the vegetable gardens. If that happens, it will be a victory for Hermine Rickets and her husband Tom Caroll, the Miami Shores couple who made the ban a statewide issue by taking their town to court.

Their attorney, Ari Bargil of the Institute for Justice, appeared before the House State Affairs Committee last week.

“Lawmakers have an opportunity to right a wrong and secure every Floridian’s right to use their property to grow food,” said Bargil. “I look forward to the day when local governments may not forbid residents from peacefully and productively using their own property. Hopefully, this legislation will soon be on its way to the governor’s desk.”

If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ends up with the bill to sign, it does not entirely keep local government out of those front-yard gardens. City governments will still have powers to do such things as regulating water use during droughts, seasonal fertilizer use, or the control of invasive species.

The Florida League of Cities, which represents the state’s municipalities, continues to oppose the bill and is certain to continue that opposition right up to the end.]

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