The Hippies vs. Code Enforcement

When a tiny hippie co-op refused to clean up its yard, the city of Arlington came down hard -- and brought the SWAT team with it.

Arlington officials were unimpressed. Officials gave Shellie seven days, until February 4, to fix her violations. Shellie responded by giving the city of Arlington 30 days to respond to her own charges that they were illegally infringing on her rights.

"They didn't respond," Quinn says, "because they couldn't, because there is no law that supersedes that law."

In February, the Garden of Eden started getting new notices from Arlington, threatening forms called "Notice of Abatements," warning that the city of Arlington would soon take matters into its own hands: "SUBSEQUENT VIOLATIONS ON THIS PROPERTY MAY RESULT IN THE CITY, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE, ABATING THE VIOLATION AT THE OWNER'S EXPENSE."

The Garden of Eden responded with more letters — or "lawful notifications," as Quinn calls them, to people higher up, the mayor and city manager.

At the end of February, Shellie was summoned to court, for something called a code pretrial hearing. She thought she'd be able to explain how the garden worked, how permaculture works. Instead, she found herself in a small courtroom with dozens of other people. They waited in line for anonymous city employees behind a desk to give them two options: Pay the city fines resulting from the citations or request a jury trial.

Shellie faced hundreds of dollars in fines for "unclean premises" ($132), "failure to keep property clear of weeds etc." ($387), "nuisance outside storage" ($316), "faulty weather protection" ($566) and even "trees overhanging sidewalks" ($177), though she claims she'd already cut the trees by then.

Yet the abatements continued. When she found out she was being charged with a misdemeanor for "unclean premises," she requested a hearing. There would be no jury. It was scheduled for May 2013. Fearing she'd be railroaded, she didn't go.

It was around then that Shellie and Quinn noticed something strange: People they didn't recognize, who didn't seem excited to be there, started showing up at their workshops. They stopped holding them, worried they might be undercover city employees. They were right. An affidavit would later reveal that undercover police officers had visited the Garden of Eden.

They also started keeping their front gate locked all the time, posting a lengthy sign directed at employees of the city of Arlington: "You have been and are again hereby given lawful notice of your participation in and perpetuation of the slavery system."

It wasn't long after that when the SWAT team showed up.


Inok's daughter was just 2 weeks old. She was in bed with her that morning, after a long, sleepless night. Quinn ran in her room. "He's like, 'SWAT's here,'" Inok recalls. "I'm like, 'What?'" He gave her a statistic about being eight times more likely to die in a SWAT raid than a terrorist attack and told her to stay calm.

Quinn walked downstairs with his hands up, repeating to officers that women and children were upstairs. They put Quinn in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail.

Inok quickly got dressed. Officers entered her room, put her in handcuffs and brought her downstairs, leaving the children behind. She was kept away from them for 20 minutes, she says, until a SWAT officer called out: "Children are stirring. Do you want the mother to have access?"

"Affirmative."

Inok was brought upstairs, back to the bedroom, and stayed there for several hours with a group of SWAT officers who carefully avoided eye contact. "I felt like all of them felt like it was really intrusive," she says. She fell asleep with the babies while her room was on guard. After several hours, she was allowed to go downstairs and move around the house freely. Everyone could, besides Quinn, who had been arrested. But no one could leave the property. Not until the search was over. The entire ordeal lasted 10 hours.

Code enforcement officers arrived on a separate bus to "abate" the violations. They mowed down the grass and plants, Shellie says, but gave up when they realized how long that would take on a 3.5-acre property. Inside, five or six code enforcement officers wandered the house with clipboards. They inspected the bedroom and Inok's compost toilet on the upstairs balcony. A separate truck hauled away some of Shellie's spare tires and other projects. There were so many city employees there that they set up a tent to shade themselves with throughout the day.

Strangely, they left behind the couch that wasn't weather resistant. "I actually wanted them to take that away," Inok says.

After the raid, another neighbor surveyed the damage. She saw 40 police cars drive down the road that morning, in a procession that lasted 15 minutes. Before that, she didn't know much about the Garden of Eden, other than it was a place where a friend once got some vegetables. "They tore that place up," the neighbor says.

They bailed Quinn out of jail that night, and soon after sent out a press release describing the raid to media. Two weeks later, it caught on, and the Garden of Eden was famous.

The police, it turned out, had gone looking for weed. The officer who wrote the search warrant, identified as Officer M. Perez of the Arlington Police Department, had seen an advertisement on the Garden's website advertising "Uber Dank" food, and knew "through her training and experience that 'Uber Dank' is also slang for high quality marijuana." An anonymous tipster had also told police that Quinn was hiding marijuana behind the bamboo plants, she said. In response, the Texas Department of Public Safety had sent a manned aircraft, the warrant explained, and spotted what they thought were marijuana plants.

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25 comments
ladypegasus
ladypegasus

This is the same city that forced me out and sent my neighbor to an old folks home (she had lived in her home for 30 years) because they wanted a new road. 

Funny thing, the Nature Center in Fort Worth now uses composting toilets just like the ones at the Garden of Eden. Unlike Arlington, Fort Worth is proud of this natural upgrade.

mcdallas
mcdallas

Two wrongs don't make a right.

jedivaza
jedivaza

I have never understood how most "civilized" people can be so judgmental, materialistic, nosy, arrogant, and afraid of things and people who are different,  I bet most of the psychopaths today grew up in proper neighborhoods with flushing toilets and eating processed foods from the grocery store - following "the rules" - until they explode,.  Try living your own life and let others live theirs.  I bet there is more joy amongst those "hippies" than all of the surrounding neighbors and less sexual abuse, alcohol, drugs, greed, gluttony, theft, etc.

babsandbernard
babsandbernard

No weed. Apparently no dog to gun down. Bad day for Arlington's finest.

loridschlitz
loridschlitz

In a way I kind of envy them. I've lived in a large metropolitan city my whole life. It would be nice to live as they do and I often think about doing just that. I think I would be a little more organized .. but, growing your own food, etc. sounds wonderful. 

oledriller
oledriller

Great article Amy! Yes, I am a ultra right winger! Burnt out old hippie? No.  But guess what? I support everything these folks are doing. Get the government out of our lives. Let them live the way they want to. Are the children doing fine? Are they being abused in any way?  No spousal er partner abuse? Is everyone happy? If not then leave these people the hell alone! Unfortunately, that won't happen in todays new Left wing Libtard Society. Its all about forced dependence on the Nanny State. Just wait over the next ten years. You ain't seen nothing yet! 

EdCota
EdCota

God, I feel sorry for Shellie's adult children. You try to go home to visit your mom and she's living with some polygamous blowhard who's your age, looks a whole lot like Capt. Jack Sparrow, and wears his pants low enough to where you can see his pubes.  The jerkoff has moved his common-law other wife into your bedroom and is letting some of his weirdo friends live in vans and half submerged suburbans in the yard.  When you need to go to the bathroom you have to crap in a glorified bucket and wipe your butt with sawdust.  Then at the dinner table,  you have to listen to him ramble on about half baked ideas concerning his constitutional right to poop in said bucket.  At least the food is uber dank, though.

I bet the kids were the ones that called in the SWAT team.  I know I would.  Do you think Quinn would still be with Shellie if she didn't own that property?

Josepha
Josepha

SWAT figured there had to be at least one illegal seed to justify their puny existence and waving of their tiny reproductive organs.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Cougar got her some hot, young Svengali and the other hags in the hood are jealous?

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

I live in the country, my neighbors moved in and immediately put a goat pen in their front yard. Did I complain about it? No, because I live in the country where we can do what we want with our land for the most part. Cities have to protect property values. If all the neighbors around this House moved out and no one else would buy the houses because of the jungle house then what is that doing to their values? Tax Base? This really needs to be moved out to the country somewhere. You live in a City, you go by that cities rules.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I still bet that if you dig deep enough into this, there is a developer or someone in power who wants their property.

Now, I also say that they handled their issues with the city poorly. I have permaculture aspects added to my property, but I called the city code compliance and cleared what I was planning first. As to the composting toilets, I've seen that as a solution for people in REALLY rural areas. But, not when you have a sewer line.

MattKi
MattKi

I'm pretty sure this is Kennedale, not Arlington.

scerinjen3
scerinjen3

Please know I'm not being a troll when I say 'Go City of Arlington!' I feel sorry for the neighbors of these people.  Property owners pay a premium for some degree of  protection and insulation when they choose to live in certain areas.  I have thanked my city code enforcement many times for removing violations.   

If a person wants to try this kind of cultural experiment (?) sell the land and move out to some rural location where there are no zones or rules and get as freaky as you want.  Also - I just don't like hippies.

EdCota
EdCota

@bvckvs Good point about burying the car.  How are they sure the car was properly drained of fluids and anything else that could contaminate the ground?  When the next owner figures out that some hippies buried a truck to make a cave, he's going to look at the old owners for environmental remediation.  Fortunately for Quinn, his name name won't be on the chain of title, just Shellie's.  And her ex-husband's.

Rather than a story about police heavy-handedness, this reads to me like a story of a divorcee getting taken advantage of by some aspiring cult-leader who's been enabled and encouraged his whole life by his fruitcake parents and the Dallas Observer.

mcdallas
mcdallas

@MattKi "I'm pretty sure this is Kennedale, not Arlington" = I have no clue what I'm talking about but I feel like I need to make some sort of comment.

It's called Google.  You should try it sometime.

ladypegasus
ladypegasus

@scerinjen3 This was a rural area outside the city when the owner first moved there. In a way they are being punished because the city has grown over them. What you are saying is that,even if you start out in the country, you have to move away if the city expands to take in your land. That is the sad but true problem. Soon there will be no place left to go where the city cannot control everything you do. My family had to leave our farm for the same reason, and the beautiful dairy farm next door is now a parking lot. Neither were originally in the city, but once they were, the city made life hell for everyone until we left.

thomas.rocha.cp
thomas.rocha.cp

@scerinjen3 Why can't you sell your house and move to an HOA where everyone signs their contract knowing that they have certain upkeep requirements? Because it's a hassle, right, and you should be able to live in peace where you are. People that like their grass longer than yours are not lazy, or trying to attack you with their grass. They just want to live their lives in a way that makes them happy, and not be bothered.

oledriller
oledriller

@thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 Amen brother! I live on the largest non-territorial jurisdiction in N. Texas. Down a one mile private road on 3800 acres with six family farms surrounded by property hungry cities. We have our own trash service, coop electricity, our own internet service and private water. We homeschool our kids, ride horses, hunt, fish and have parties every weekend. We  build what we want without have to deal with stupid inner city municipal codes and libtard homeowners associations. And most important we do not depend on anything from the government. Thank God that because of Gov Perry we now cannot be annexed without a unanimous vote from fellow homeowners.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 then move to rural area where your unkempt lawn and property will make you happy while not bothering others.  You cool with your neighbor just having a hippie living in a van in the front yard?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 there is a big difference, did the city issuing code violations not show you that?  You can grow your grass however you want as long as you follow code, I must do the same.  Dont like it, leave the fucking city.  pretty simple if you ask me

thomas.rocha.cp
thomas.rocha.cp

@ScottsMerkin @thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 There is a difference between unkept and kept in a manner you don't agree with. There is also the fact, mentioned in the article, that this area, while in the middle of an urban area, is not exactly urban. I've been down this particular stretch of road before, and it's almost like being back home in East Texas. The houses are far enough apart that it's a stretch to say that something in your yard is bothering one of your neighbors in their yard.

As to the hippie in a van, well, I don't really care what someone's personal views are, or what they live in, or even how often they bathe. The only thing I care about is that they let me live my life in peace. I'd would certainly prefer to have some self-described "dirty hippie" living next to me than a "good ole boy" who called the city every time there was a stalk of bahiagrass in my yard.

 
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