Suit: City weed ordinance should be deemed unconstitutional

SHARE Suit: City weed ordinance should be deemed unconstitutional

Two longtime Rogers Park residents want a judge to find the city ordinance concerning weeds unconstitutional, alleging it not only violates their right to free speech, but is vague and nothing more than a source of revenue for the city.

The class-action suit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court by Kathryn and Raymond Ward, seeks a judicial declaration that Section 7-28-120 of the Chicago Municipal Code is unconstitutional. The ordinance, they allege, “has nothing do with aesthetics, health or safety, but rather is being used as a tool to collect revenue.”

According to the city Department of Streets and Sanitation, a “weed” or “weeds” means vegetation not managed or maintained by the person who owns or controls the property and exceeding 10 inches in height.

“The City of Chicago promotes the use of native vegetation as a means to conserve water and to reduce carbon dioxide,” according to Streets & San.

The Wards, who own a residence in the 1700 block of West Morse Avenue, argue that definition of a weed is unclear and leaves property owners open to the possibility of “personal predilections” of city inspectors.

Their front yard, they said, is full of plants that range from several feet to less than an inch in height.

A city inspector cited the Wards for the vegetation in their front yard, and after an administrative review, they were fined more than $600, the suit states. They’ve also cut down some plants in their yard out of fear of more city-issued fines.

The Wards are asking for a judicial declaration that the ordinance is “unconstitutional, void, and of no force and effect under the United States Constitution.”

The seven-count suit also asks for compensatory damages and a permanent injunction against enforcement of the ordinance.

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