On The Front Lines
Challenging March 18 Compliance Deadline, Rutherford Institute Files Notice of Appeal on Behalf of Florida Homeowner Cited for Living ‘Off the Grid’
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Challenging a March 18 compliance deadline issued by a Florida magistrate, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a notice of appeal on behalf of a Florida homeowner who was charged with violating city code provisions because of her refusal to hook up to city water and electrical resources, choosing instead to live sustainably “off the grid.” Cape Coral homeowner Robin Speronis was ordered to hook her home up to city water, electrical, and sewer outlets by March 18, 2014—despite the fact that she has been self-sustainable for more than a year—or face $50 daily fines for noncompliance. Believing that property owners have a certain amount of sovereignty over what takes place on their own property, The Rutherford Institute has come to Speronis’ defense. A hearing date on the Special Magistrate’s compliance order is set for April 17, 2014.
“What happened to Robin Speronis should never have happened, and yet it is happening every day, to more and more Americans,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “Indeed, cases such as Robin’s are becoming increasingly common as overzealous government officials routinely enforce laws that penalize Americans for living off the grid, hosting a Bible study in one’s backyard, growing organic vegetables in one’s front yard, feeding wild animals, and collecting rainwater, to name just a few. Unfortunately, this disregard for private property by government officials brings us full circle, back to that pre-Revolutionary era when colonists had few to no rights whatsoever within their homes.”
For many months now, Robin Speronis, who doesn’t have a refrigerator, oven, running water or electricity in her home, has lived self-sustainably through the use of solar panels for her electricity needs and rainwater collection for her water supply. Speronis cooks on a propane camping stove, runs her electronics on solar-charged batteries, showers using a camping shower, and collects rainwater to fill the tank of her toilet and flush the waste. However, a day after Speronis was interviewed for a story about living “off the grid,” a city code enforcement official came to her home and issued her an eviction notice, deeming her home “unsafe/unfit for human habitation and occupancy” because she was living there without utilities. The city official reached this conclusion without ever having set foot inside Speronis’ home or carrying out any kind of inspection. Although city officials have since clarified that “municipalities don’t have the power to evict,” the city has maintained its insistence that Speronis comply with an international property maintenance code and city ordinances or face daily fines.
Determined to maintain her independence, Speronis fought back, challenging the city code provisions that required her to hook up to and use city utilities. On February 21, 2014, Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin determined that Speronis was not guilty of violating the city codes requiring electrical and sewer systems, but that she was required under the codes to hook up to the city’s water system. In reaching this decision, Eskin admitted that portions of the code “might be obsolete,” that “reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand,” and that societal and technological developments might suggest that it’s time for a review of code ordinances. Nonetheless, the Magistrate ordered Speronis to comply with the faulty and inherently conflicting code provisions by the end of March. City officials have since capped Speronis’ access to the sewer line so she can no longer use it for waste removal unless she pays for water service, which she does not use. Speronis, who lived in the woods for seven months, plans to use an alternative toilet and dispose of her waste in a sanitary way, rather than be forced to use the city’s sewer system.
Participating attorney Todd Allen is working with The Rutherford Institute to defend Speronis, and in the process challenge the Magistrate’s ruling and demand that the city’s archaic ordinances be revised.