Undesirable Land Use: Growing Weeds Is Not A First Amendment "Expressive Act"

Friday, May 25, 2018 9:58 am
June 2018 - Volume 46 Number 6

A Chicago landowner unsuccessfully tried to use the free-speech clause of the First Amendment to invalidate a city ordinance limiting the height of weeds.

Facts: Discount Inn, Inc. (Discount Inn), a company that owns some empty lots in the City of Chicago, violated two City ordinances: a weed ordinance and a fence ordinance. The weed ordinance requires property owners to keep all of the “weeds” on their properties to an average height of ten inches or less. Violating the weed ordinance results in a fine of $600 to $1,200 per day. The fencing ordinance requires open lot owners to surround their properties with “noncombustible screen fences” and to maintain those fences. Violating the fencing ordinance results in a fine of $300 to $600.

After paying at least twenty fines for violating both of these ordinances, Discount Inn sued the City, claiming that the ordinances violated the First [..]