ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Missouri couple over a city ordinance that requires them to plant grass in their yard.
U.S. District Judge John Ross tossed out the 2016 lawsuit Wednesday over St. Peters’ turf grass ordinance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . Residents Janice and Carl Duffner alleged the ordinance obligates owners to grow and maintain an “unwanted physical presence on their property for no other reason than that the government commands it.”
Janice Duffner is allergic to grass. The couple planted flowers, trees and ground cover on their lot. They also have planting beds, mulched areas and two small ponds.
The city notified the couple that they violated the city ordinance requiring at least 50 percent “turf grass” in 2014 after someone complained. The St. Peters Board of Adjustment later granted a variance that reduces the grass requirement to 5 percent in the front or side yard.
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But Janice Duffner said that the requirement was still nearly 850 square feet (79 square meters) of grass.
Such ordinances could lead to cities mandating holiday light shows or swimming pools in order to improve property values, according to the Duffner’s lawsuit. The suit also said the couple could face jail time or fines between about $7,500 and $188,000 for violations.
The couple “failed to identify a fundamental right that is restricted by the Turf Grass Ordinance,” according to Ross’ ruling. The Duffner’s allegation was too broad and could lead to “heightened judicial scrutiny” for many zoning laws, Ross wrote.
He also ruled that the potential punishment wasn’t excessive.
An attorney for the Duffners plans to appeal.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com