The issues at Sugar Creek
A family in Sugar Creek, Missouri is being told they must remove their garden or face citations in a city where gardens are banned if they are located within 30 feet of a city street.
The homeowner, Nathan Athans, vows to fight for what he calls his right to grow and provide food for his family. Athans said he planted the garden in his front yard instead of his back yard because the back doesn’t get adequate sunlight. However, the city said it received several complaints about the garden.
Athans has received support from around the world. Those who support him consider the matter an international issue. His battle caught the attention of Ari Bargil, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice whose firm is defending a Miami family who is also battling to be allowed to keep their front yard garden. That case is expected to be heard by a judge sometime in June.
The city advised Athans that he can rent space from the local community garden. However, Athans says he prefers to grow his garden on the property he owns and loves.
On April 4, Mayor Matt Mallinson posted a comment regarding the ordinance on his Facebook page.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to address the garden ordinance recently passed in the city of Sugar Creek. Unfortunately how this ordinance was passed has not been a part of the circulated information most of you have seen. First, the Board of Zoning held a public hearing to discuss clearing up some of the language in the existing ordinance and voted unanimously to change the ordinance as they did. Again, this was done after a public hearing, in which everyone that wanted to be heard was given an opportunity to speak, there were none in attendance that were against the ordinance. Another public hearing was held before the Sugar Creek Board of Alderman who voted unanimously to accept the change. The Mayor (myself) does not vote, except in the situation of a split vote. I am the one that signs the ordinance. I did not have a vote on this particular ordinance. I am an avid gardener and was raised on a farm so I know the benefits of a garden. It is my job to make sure the proper procedures were followed. Rather I agree or not, I must sign the ordinance. I also will ensure anyone’s ability to address the Board of Zoning if they would like for it to be looked at again. I request that all citizens of our city please attend public meetings and share concerns, as your concerns will always be considered.”
Athans hopes that another city law, already in place before the garden ordinance was written, will override the ban. That law states, in part, that “non-conforming use of land…, which existed lawfully at the time of the adoption of the ordinance, may be continued indefinitely…”