New support for family forced to destroy garden

Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 18:42:29-04

The Sugar Creek family fighting to keep their front yard vegetable garden is getting a lot of new support.

One week before, the city said the garden had to go, but Nathan Athans isn’t backing down.

“Them coming and telling me I can't have a garden, then what comes next? I just want to grow my own food and provide for my family,” Athans said.

Banning front yard vegetable gardens

Sugar Creek banned vegetation like vegetable gardens located within 30 feet from the street after the city said they received several complaints.

Athans argued that would prevent him from growing vegetables because his backyard does not receive enough sunlight.

New support

Since the ban, however, Athans has received a lot of support. “Around the world, I've had people from the UK, Australia, Denmark, Holland, France emailing me and emailing the City Council saying this isn't just a local issue, this is an international issue.”

The city provides a community garden just down the road from Athans’ home but there’s a fee to rent space and he doesn’t understand why he’d have to pay to rent when he’s already got good land of his own.

Other court case

That’s why his battle got the attention of a national attorney who flew to Kansas City to learn more.

Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “This is a very peaceful, productive use of property, it's not harming anybody, it's not harming the land. They're using it to feed themselves, this is a basic liberty that all Americans should be able to exercise.”

It’s an issue Bargil has been fighting for a family in Miami the past two years.

Next month, a judge will decide on the front yard garden ban there, but Bargil said it could have much larger implications.

“It will undoubtedly impact people in the state of Florida and I believe nationally if we're successful,” Bargil said.

Enforcing the ban

Sugar Creek’s mayor didn’t return our calls for comment but posted a response about 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....

Posted by Mayor Matt Mallinson on Monday, April 4, 2016

Since the warning, the city had yet to cite Athans for his garden, but now he’s not as concerned.

Athans remarked, “I appreciate everyone standing up with me on this, I don't have to stand alone.”

The Freedom Center of Missouri also reached out to the Athans family. The Center assisted a family on their fight for their front yard garden in Ferguson in 2012. The Center pointed out Sugar Creek couldn’t enforce the new ordinance, pointing out the city’s own law that states this is “grandfathered” as a pre-existing non-conforming use:

"Non-conforming uses. A non-conforming use of land, building or structure which existed lawfully at the time of the adoption of the ordinance may be continued indefinitely, except when the use is discontinued or abandoned for one hundred eighty (180) consecutive days, or when there is a change to another non-conforming use. If the use is non-conforming only because of off-street parking or load requirements, the use, building or structure shall have all of the rights of conforming uses. Any alteration, enlargement, repair or restoration of a non-conforming use, building and/or structure must comply with the restrictions provided therefor in the zoning ordinance."