Arlington 'Garden of Eden' owner still on the hook for fines owed to city

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by SEBASTIAN ROBERTSON

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaasebastian

WFAA

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 10:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 10:35 PM

Garden of Eden

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ARLINGTON -- A self-described "Artist of Life," Shellie Smith fought tooth and nail with the city of Arlington, but a jury Thursday decided she is still on the hook for more than $4,000 in fines owed to the city.

Last summer, a SWAT team raided Shellie’s 13-acre farm on Mansfield Cardinal Road on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Officers found no drugs, but code enforcement came out with a laundry list of violations -- fines totaling $4,404. Crews also removed more than 20,000 pounds of what they call “nuisance materials,” including tires, compost, wooden pallets, and furniture.

City of Arlington spokeswoman Sana Syed said at the time the Garden of Eden has been cited for numerous violations since 2011, and that the owner refused to make changes.

"The purpose was to improve the quality of life, to resolve life safety issues within neighborhoods and to hold the property owner responsible for creating blight conditions on their property," Syed said in a written statement.

Smith said code officials took away their food, and everything they need for a sustainable lifestyle. She refused to pay the fines.

Thursday, inside an Arlington municipal court, a judge and jury heard her case.

Code Enforcement Officer Curtis Jones was the first witness called to the stand by the state. When asked about the debris on the property, he said, “It looked like stuff that a normal person wouldn’t have on a property.”

“My definition would be filthy, but that’s not everyone’s,” he later said when asked to describe the conditions.

Smith has lived on what she calls the Garden of Eden for 18 years. What the state sees as clear violations, she sees as necessities for living off her land.

Smith was not alone, joined by fellow farmers and supporters.

“You’re following codes that are not really thoroughly thought out, and you are working with a community that doesn’t want to see the truth and honoring the inherent rights of people," Smith said. "So for me, it is an opportunity to come in and make a stance."

Despite the stance from supporters, the jury still said Smith owes fines the city for the violations Thursday afternoon.

E-mail srobertson@wfaa.com

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