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.

The aircraft, the tip, the officer's mastery of marijuana parlance: It was all wrong. They didn't find a single bud.

Headlines from publications across the country, from the New York Daily News to the Huffington Post, ridiculed small-town Texas cops for not being able to distinguish between organic veggies and pot. Left-wing websites rallied against the Arlington Police Department. Ron Paul took up the cause and even interviewed Quinn.

Shellie filed a formal complaint against the Arlington Police Department, saying that officers waited two hours before presenting a warrant after they barged into the house. Through a spokesman, the Arlington Police Department would not comment on Shellie's specific allegations, explaining that "the status of the complaint regarding these allegations is pending." In a statement afterward, city of Arlington spokeswoman Syed downplayed the police raid, saying that "narcotics detectives and members of the tactical unit cleared the scene within 45 minutes." In an email to the Observer, Syed adds: "Nuisance conditions often require a more immediate response to ensure the safety and welfare of the community."

Mark Graham
Don't get excited, Arlington: It's just tobacco.
Mark Graham
Don't get excited, Arlington: It's just tobacco.

Details

Syed's statement did take the opportunity to point out the alleged code violations the city found when they arrived that same day. She cites complaints from neighbors.

"As detailed in the search warrant affidavit, since 2011 Code Compliance Services has received numerous complaints from residents who live in the area and are concerned about their health and safety due to the current unsanitary conditions on the property that promotes the harboring of rodents, mosquitoes and fire hazards."


On a recent weekday, Shellie walks back into her garden, which is starting to look more like itself. She cuts off leaves of fresh basil. Qiqi runs into the kitchen, naked but with boots on her feet, holding an empty bowl.

Quinn is here, too: He hasn't been charged with anything. A brief incident report says only that "during the execution of a search warrant, arrestee was found to have outstanding misdemeanor warrants." He can't get them to provide the full police report, and the city of Arlington told the Observer that "the case is still pending and will not be released to the public at this time."

Shellie's jury trial is still set to take place in March. But during the raid, she was cited again with the same violations. She has another pretrial hearing next month, and Arlington has thrown in a few other violations: "BUSINESS OUT OF HOME (NO PERMIT)" ($682) and "HAZARDOUS WIRING" ($566).

But now they're not even sure about those. After the raid, Shellie and Quinn went to the courthouse to gather information about all the charges. The clerk told Shellie she was facing nine citations, including three for "wrong color signal device."

"Wrong color signal device?" Shellie asked, according to a recording she provided of the meeting.

"I have no idea," the clerk replied. The clerk left and came back. Those citations were mistakenly keyed into the system, from a scanning error, she said. Several other citations were also mistakes. The clerk apologized profusely.

"I've never had this happen before," the clerk said. "Someone put it in the system when they're not supposed to." But those citations may reappear at any time.

"That means you have to continue to check on them to make sure that after they get reviewed, they don't get put in the system," the clerk explained. The city has two years to file a case for the "wrong color signal device." Quinn and Shellie are thinking about filing a lawsuit but can't afford an expensive lawyer. They're saving their records just in case.

Quinn is convinced that they were targeted specifically because of the "lawful notifications" they sent back to city officials. As proof, he points to his warning sign on the front gate, accusing the city of Arlington of perpetuating slavery. It was torn down the day of the raid, he says. "I think they were scared of us."

Shellie doesn't go quite that far, though she does think her neighbors are scared of her lifestyle. "People are always afraid of what they don't understand," she says. "We have a lot of elderly people here. They've been out here for a very long time."

She says she found only one resident who officially complained — the elderly couple that she used to go on double-dates with, back when she was married. They have a view of the garden. The couple didn't respond to voicemail messages requesting an interview, but according to Shellie, the wife told her she had no idea that the city would be sending armed police officers to the Garden of Eden.

"She said, 'I really love you, I just don't like what you do,'" Shellie remembers. "And I said, 'Well I love you, but I don't really like that you called [the city].'"

During her door-to-door research, Shellie made another discovery: The city of Arlington had hosted a meeting with neighbors to discuss problem properties back in February, including the Garden of Eden. But the Garden of Eden wasn't invited.

"Our representative from this area called us and told us that there was going to be a meeting taking place, and the time and date, and that was why we showed up," says Bonnie McClure, a neighbor who was invited to the meeting with her husband, Gil. She was given no advance notice what the meeting would be about, she says.

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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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