An ordinance in St. Peters, Mo., requires that a “minimum” of 50 percent of all yard areas “shall be comprised of turf grass.” But some people are allergic to turf grass, including St. Peters resident Janice Duffner.
Duffner and her husband, Carl, replaced their grass with landscaping many people would cherish: a manicured hillside with flowers and small ponds, walkways and sitting areas to enjoy the yard.
What does this type of landscaping cost you in St. Peters, Mo.?
The ordinance punishes homeowners who do not grow enough turf grass to please local regulators with up to $500 fines and 10 days in jail for every day the homeowners have inadequate turf grass.
When the homeowners asked city officials for an exemption, they were denied and ordered to plant the grass in locations officials could see in a drive-by inspection.
“I take a lot of joy in maintaining this beautiful, calming environment, and it was a relief to have limited my exposure to grass pollen,” Mrs. Duffner said. “I don’t understand why the city wants to force me to tear up part of my garden and replace it with something that makes me feel bad.”
The Freedom Center of Missouri has challenged the constitutionality of this law on behalf of the Duffners.
The Freedom Center argues the turf grass mandate violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. Dave Roland, its director of litigation, said he was “not aware of any court in the entire country that has allowed a city to force its citizens involuntarily to grow government-dictated plants in government-dictated locations around the citizens’ homes. The city is unconstitutionally assuming authority to make decisions that properly belong to the homeowners, and we intend to nip it in the bud.”
But a trial court dismissed the Duffners’ case, showing that some judges in Missouri dislike individual liberties as much as city officials dislike flowers.
On Nov. 4, the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear arguments that the trial court should not have dismissed the case.