Late February- Flagged down Brian Harper, and stated my intentions for the garden. Explained that I found no ordinances against doing so. He told me that as long as I was within ordinance, I shouldn’t have any issues with Code Enforcement.
approx. March 6th- Began tilling grass under.
approx. March 14th- Began tilling in leaves.
approx. March 20th- Began tilling in compost.
March 23rd- I was in the process of tilling the outer border of the yard against the sidewalk upon Brian Harper’s arrival. Alleged complaint by neighbor. Violations for fresh dirt on sidewalk, which I tried to explain that I was currently tilling along. I was told that a front yard garden was not allowed. I explained that I was within ordinance in my undertakings, and asked to see documentation to show otherwise. Brian Harper stated that the violations were of ordinance 7-120, which showed no relevance to gardens or landscaping. I showed him that the sidewalk ordinance was under 7-134, not 7-120. Brian Harper stated that was what his superior, Terry O’Neill had said I was in violation of. Cleaned sidewalk after finishing tilling that same day.
March 29th- Received letter in mail dated March 27th stating to “seed and straw front yard” and to “remove all dirt from private and public sidewalks.” Both were now stated to be violations under Sec. 7-134. -Grounds: “Every yard, court, vent, passageway, driveway, sidewalk, fence and other portion of the lot on which the residential building stands shall be free of debris, weeds and other safety hazards, graded and drained so as to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water on any such surface. Driveways and sidewalks shall be maintained in good repair. Gravel from gravel driveways must be retained in the driveway and kept clean of sidewalks and streets.” Ordinance 7-134 does not specify seed nor straw and does not distinguish between front, back, or side yards.
April 7th- Tilling complete, edging installed, wood mulch bordered, formed rows, placed identification stakes, and laid straw over area to prevent dust as per Sec. 7-120 (i) which clearly shows that grassed yards are not mandatory. Cold weather including frost week prior to April 9th prevented seeding of vegetation.
April 9th- Brian Harper arrived to inspect progress. Knocked on door. Sidewalks were clean of dirt and debris. He asked if the garden was seeded, I said it was not seeded, only strawed. Explained that I could likely have most of the garden seeded by the 23rd, but again, that would be dependent on the weather. I explained that I did not feel obligated to seed earlier than I was comfortable with, and there is no ordinance that sets mandatory time constraints for the planting of any vegetation, be it grass, garden, or landscaping. I quoted Sec. 7-120 (i): “Yards. All areas which are not covered by lawn or vegetation shall be treated to prevent dust or the blowing or scattering of dust particles into the air.” I again explained that I was within ordinance in my undertakings, and asked to see documentation to show otherwise. None provided. Explained case should be closed for compliance with all relevant ordinances. Given 2 more weeks to comply with “seed and straw yard”.
approx. April 10th- Jesse Brandt, the homeowner, went to the Public Works office to inquire about the alleged violations. Jesse was given a printout of Zoning 8.5. Area Requirements. The director, Terry O’neil, highlighted the following portion:
“8.58. Yards, generally:
Every part of a required yard shall be open to the sky, unobstructed except as follows:
(a) accessory buildings in a rear yard;
(b) decks in a rear yard that are more than fifteen feet from the rear property line;
(c) ordinary projections of sills, belt courses, cornices and ornamental features, roof overhangs, planter boxes and similar items, not to extend more than 24 inches into any required yard.”
Jesse stated that Zoning 8.5 showed no relevance to a garden, or any other landscaping, and that it was specific to buildings or structures in the yard. The director stated that he felt the city attorney would win against us in court. He threatened Jesse that we would be fined for illegal run-off, and anything else they could find if we did not cease establishing the garden. Also stated that if fines were not paid a lien would be put on the house. Jesse told them not to come out to the house anymore without citing specific, relevant ordinance violations. Jesse stated that we were being harassed without justification. Stated that all correspondence should be in writing and mailed.
April 21st- Raked away straw in several rows and seeded all herbs, grains, flowers and vegetables other than tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Watered garden at noon and dusk each day to germinate seeds, as well as prevent dust per 7-120-(i).
April 23rd- Brian Harper arrived to inspect progress. Knocked on door. Showed him that I had seeded all but tomatoes, peppers, and squash and that he had no authority to dictate when those would be planted. Explained that I considered his return as harassment. Explained that I was within ordinance in my undertakings, and asked to see documentation to show otherwise. None provided. He stated he was only doing what his superior(s) told him to do. Explained case should be closed for compliance with all relevant ordinances. Firmly stated that I did not want to see him again without citing specific, relevant ordinance violations. He left no verbal instructions. I was very stern with him, and feel this is why it took nearly a month for them to send the May 17th mailed follow up report. I also assume this is why that letter would state that upon Brian Harper’s visit on April 23rd, “no one was home”, and “door hanger left.” No paperwork was given or left, and I was very much at home. Had a door hanger been left, it would have left instructions and a date by which time those instructions were to be followed. Upon that date, Brian Harper would have returned to inspect the premises. There was no follow up on the city’s behalf until May 17th. Also, a summons was written on April 23rd, which was mistakenly mailed out, certified, and received on June 6th. Again, this shows that I was there April 23rd and that my refusal prompted the writing of the summons. The summons, written by Brian Harper, cited 7-133, rather than 7-134. 7-133 applies to building exteriors, not landscaping.
April 26th-27th- Transplanted tomatoes and peppers. Seeded squash, cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe. At this point, all rows in the garden were completely “seeded”.
May 17th- Brian Harper arrived quite late in the evening, I believe after 5pm. Knocked on door. He stated that we would receive a new citation in the mail, and that we would receive another citation “later on, once the garden started coming in”. I saw no justifiable purpose for this brief encounter. Explained that I considered his return as harassment. Explained that I was within ordinance in my undertakings, and asked to see documentation to show otherwise. None provided. Explained case should be closed for compliance with all relevant ordinances. Firmly stated that I did not want to see him again without citing specific, relevant ordinance violations.
May 19th- Received another follow up report in mail stating to “seed front yard”, cited again under Sec. 7-134. Letter also ordered us to “remove plants from front yard- area not zoned for agriculture area zoned R1D” citing ordinance “00.000 -Other”, which does not exist. In Zoning 8.0, under Zoning 8.3 – Special Uses, R1D is in fact zoned for urban agriculture. However, we don’t meet the definition of agriculture under Zoning 2.0 -Definitions. There, urban agriculture is defined as: “One or more lots or parcels of land two (2) acres or greater in size, used to produce vegetables, fruits, livestock, flowers, and other pland material for both on and off-premises sales.” We aren’t selling anything. Our lot is also far less than 2 acres, merely a 1/4 acre lot. Plant is misspelled in the ordinance. Letter stated that the property would be re-inspected on May 22nd.
May 22nd- KTVI News came out to do a story on my garden. Code Enforcement never showed up for their planned inspection. At 4:00pm, after house calls are generally completed, my fiancé, my son and I went to the Ferguson Police Department to file charges for harassment against Brian Harper, Joe Krabbe, and Terry O’Niell. Was told by Officer Zoll, badge# 533, that he would not file charges and that it was a civil issue, not criminal. He told me to leave the premises. I asked for his refusal in writing, and he refused. I quoted Missouri Harassment Law, and stated that I would not leave without paperwork stating that charges were either filed, or that my attempt to file charges was refused. He stated that I could be arrested for not obeying the order to leave by a police officer. I again asserted I wanted something in writing. He left the lobby, and returned almost a half hour later with a public records #12-9584, and stated that my request was on file, and that I could obtain a copy in 10 days for $6. We left and returned home. I was misquoted in the news story that the city was threatening to remove my garden, rather than being told to remove it myself, and also the number of home visits by code enforcement. I called the news station and asked for corrections, which were made to the written portion of the online story, but were not retracted from the video portion.
May 25th- Jesse and I had a meeting with the Mayor and the City Manager. They stated their concerns, and I shared my own. The City Manager issued a statement to the media shortly after the meeting. This can be seen under the “Statements” page. My reply to his statement is there as well.
May 26th- Removed identification stakes from the garden so they would not be considered hazards.
May 29th- Installed landscape cloth and re-mulched outer rows to limit weed growth, and further beautify the perimeter or the garden.
June 3rd- More than half of my corn plants fell over while watering due to the ground being too soft. I attribute this to Brian Harper’s adamant demands to seed my garden earlier than I wanted to. The freshly tilled earth had not settled enough to hold the weight of the heavy plants. I removed the fallen plants the next day, as it was getting dark at the time they fell.
June 6th- We received two letters in the mail from code enforcement. One was Certified, and contained the original of a citation/summons dated April 23rd. The other held a photocopy of the citation/summons. The summons cited ordinance 133, which I assume was meant to read 7-133. 7-133 regards building exteriors, such as porches, windows, gutters, chimneys, etc. 7-133 does not show relevance to yards or landscaping. Citation also stated “Failure to meet the minimum requirements of the City of Ferguson exterior appearance code as per the attached notice of particular defects dated.” There was no attached notice of specific violations in either envelope. At this time, I wrote out a new ordinance to establish residential gardens. I used the existing ordinance(s) for community gardens as a template. Upon completion, I emailed the Mayor that we had received a summons, and the specifics of such. He contacted Code Enforcement. Terry O’Neill later called Jesse Brandt, homeowner, and apologized for the citation/summons. He stated there was a clerical error, and it was not meant to be sent. Again, I feel this further proves that I was at home on April 23rd, and that my refusal to Brian Harper to remove my garden prompted the writing of this citation/summons. Please look back to April 23rd and May 19th in this document to see further details. I also emailed Megan Asikainin, City Clerk, a request under the Sunshine Law Act for documents and emails pertaining to our situation.
June 7th- Jesse filed for an appeal to the “determination” of Code Enforcement/ Public works. We did not ask for a variance, for there is no ordinance for us to ask to be set aside. In subsequent correspondence from the City, they keep stating we are asking for a variance.
June 7th- My Sunshine Law Request was stated as being too broad, ans that I should revise it to be more specific. I made revisions to my request but did not resend it until June11th.
June 11th- Emailed a revised request for documentation from the City under the Sunshine Law Act to Megan Asikainin, City Clerk, to include correspondence between Code Enforcement, City Hall, and our residence, as well as relevant emails between city officials Terry O’Niel, Joe Krabbe, Brian Harper, John Shaw, and Stephanie Karr. I unknowingly misspelled Joe Krabbe’s name in the request.
June 12th- Nikki and I attended the Council Meeting at 7:00pm. We each had a prepared statement to read aloud. These can be viewed under the “Statements” tab. There wasn’t a discussion, as it was just public comment. I spoke of the legalities of the situation, and Nikki favored more towards the emotional aspects of what has happened.
June 13th- Installed a trellis at the street end of the tomato rows in accordance with ordinance 7-120 (d).
July 2nd- Received a confirmation letter in the mail for the Board of adjustment appeal. It stated we are seeking a variance, which we are not. We are not even sure of what we are supposed to appeal. There have been no specific ordinances that have been violated with out endeavors.
July 6th- Received a letter in the mail from the City that was sent to all of our neighbors within 185 feet of our property. It stated our desire to “plant the entire front yard of the property in tall crops”. One third of my front yard is grass, and “tall crops” only take up less than ten percent of my garden. Letter also again stated how we are not zoned for agriculture, which we are, but we don’t even meet the definition of agriculture so it’s irrelevant.