MAPLEWOOD, Mo. (KMOX) – A change of venue has been granted for Alice Hezel, the Maplewood woman accused of having weeds in her yard that violate the city’s rules against anything over 12 inches in height.
Related story: Maplewood Woman Defends Her Wild Yard
Monday was the scheduled court hearing for Hezel before the Maplewood Municipal Court. Prior to her case being called Hezel’s attorney, Bruce Morrison with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, successfully lobbied for the venue change.
“To have this case tried before a jury,” he explained. “To get it out of the municipal court for the city of Maplewood and have it certified for a jury trial in the circuit court of St. Louis County.”
Morrison said it will be a “more formal, on-the-record proceeding” than Hezel would likely receive in the Maplewood Municipal Court.
“We’re going to see what evidence the city wants to put on,” according to Morrison. “If it’s going to go after aesthetics, which it seems to be what’s really driving this. The city’s ordinance as it stands cannot regulate aesthetics, but that seems to be what this fight is about.”
Hezel seemed sold on the concept of having a better chance of success if the case is heard by a jury of her peers.
“I would think (the outcome) would be favorable because all the feedback I’m getting is favorable,” Hezel said. “I mean, people come by and want to have their picture taken with me in front of my milkweed. These people are so supportive, I can’t thank them enough.”
The continued stories about Hezel’s battle with City Hall prompted a letter from city leaders that clarified their position.
It said the city of Maplewood had “no concerns” about milkweed and/or wildflowers growing in Hezel’s yard.
However, it went on to say that the real problems are the weeds and tall grass as well as the “trash and debris” on her property.
“As I told my lawyer, my plants don’t smoke and they don’t drive so they can’t go to McDonald’s to get hamburgers, fries and a soda and throw trash out on the street,” Hezel explained. “So if there’s trash out on the street, it’s from the people who live there.”
The letter from the city specifically cited “an old bathtub, old air conditioner, refrigerator” and more located on Hezel’s property.
Attorney Bruce Morrison said he agreed to take the case, because he himself is a proud resident of Maplewood.
“Except in the way that it is illegally bullying its citizens as opposed to legally bullying its citizens into compliance,” he said. “As applied to Alice, I don’t think this is a valid city ordinance. If the city just wants to litigate the issue as to whether Alice actually cultivates the garden, tends to the garden, then she’ll defend that on the fact that she’s a fastidious cultivator. And then a jury would decide.”
It’s too early to know when the case will appear on the St. Louis County docket.
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