Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times
Samantha J. Gross
Published January 26, 2019
The House tended to the “vegetable garden bill” for the
first time Wednesday, as the bill made it through the first of three stops
on its way through the Legislature.
Fetterhoff presented her amended version of bill to the
House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee,
which prohibits a county or municipality from regulating
vegetable, fruit and herb gardens on residential properties
and voids any existing ordinance of that nature.
The bill passed with dozens of questions, but only one “no
At the beginning of the month, the Senate Community Affairs
Committee unanimously backed the measure, which was first
filed by Sen. Rob Bradley. The Senate passed the Fleming
Island Republican’s bill during the 2018 session, but the
clock ran out and a House version was never filed.
The vegetable garden proposal stems from a legal dispute
about a Miami Shores ordinance that banned the gardens from
being planted in front yards. Village residents Hermine
Ricketts and Tom Carroll kept a garden, and were charged $50
in daily fines.
They eventually had to dig up their 17-year-old garden,
which they kept because their backyard didn’t get enough sun
to support their beets, kale, tomatoes and Asian cabbage.
The couple sued, and in November 2017, an appeals court
upheld a ruling that they do not have the right to keep a
vegetable garden in their front yard. They appealed the
ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, which declined to grant
Carroll and Hermine Ricketts stand in front of their home at 53 NE
106th St., Miami Shores, Florida, in November 2013, when the couple
maintained a front-yard vegetable garden.
“They were trying to have a healthier living situation
and provide their family with vegetable and fruits,” Fetterhoff said. “This
is a property rights issue. It’s not a home rule issue.”
Republican added that limitations also curb possibilities for reducing food
deserts, supporting the long-suffering bee community and teaching children
about how vegetables grow.
The bill does not include rules set by homeowners associations and does not
affect other properties like schools and churches.
The main opponent to both vegetable garden bills is the Florida League of
Cities. The group’s legislative counsel, David Cruz, argues that each city
in Florida is unique, and much of the unique aesthetic is brought about
through code enforcement. That’s why Coral Gables looks different from
Perry, Florida, he said.
“There’s the ability at the local level to come up with solutions,” he said.
“We’re not against vegetable gardens. Our members are not against vegetable
gardens. But local solution could be crafted.”
Cruz said bills like this one preempt local laws, and gave the example of a
2013 Orlando ordinance that allows residents to use 60 percent of their
front yard as a vegetable garden.
“This bill would void that ordinance,” he said. “It would undo the good work
of a city to compromise on this issue.”
Rep. Anna Eskamani was the only member of the subcommittee to vote down on
the bill. Home rule is her “north star,” she said, and the smallest level of
government understands their community best.
“We worked together at the local level to pass an ordinance that did the
people good,” the Orlando Democrat said. “City officials and county
officials should bring this up at town halls, on Facebook, talk to their
constituents. If there’s a rumbling that folks want this, make it happen on
a local level.
She said she would support a bill with amendments that provide clarity on
what constitutes a vegetable garden and give local power to defining its
size and aesthetic.
“I think the legislature can do its part to help smooth the process out,”
she said. “But does it have to rip away ordinances that are already in place
across 67 counties? That’s something I don’t subscribe to.”
Fetterhoff said she plans to keep working on the bill as it moves through
the process, but fundamentally believes the vegetable garden restrictions in
places like Miami Shores step on citizens’ constitutional rights.
“I really feel that private property rights need to be protected,” she said.
“When cities start to step on those rights, then we need to step up for the
citizens of Florida.”
The bill will be heard in the House Commerce Committee and State Affairs
Committee, but the dates have not yet been set.
HOUSE BILL 145 --
The Veggie Garden Bill