One March day in 2013, Valarie Whitner received a rude welcome when she came home to Pagedale, Missouri: A police officer spotted Valarie, arrested her and threw her in the back of a squad car, before driving her to city hall. Only after Pagedale’s chief of police became involved was Valarie free to go. Incredibly, an unspecified “building code violation” caused Valarie to get handcuffed.
For over seven years, Valarie and her partner, Vincent Blount, have been fighting Pagedale’s zealous code enforcement efforts. In Pagedale, a St. Louis suburb with just over 3,000 residents, practically anything can lead to heavy fines and the risk of imprisonment.
It’s against the law for residents to have a basketball hoop, a wading pool, a doghouse or hedges higher than three feet on their front yards. The same goes for satellite dishes on the front side of a home or holding a barbecue on the front yard, unless it’s a national holiday. Residents have beenticketed for having fallen trees, overgrown vegetation, uncut grass and mismatched drapes on their property. Pagedale also managed to ban playing in the street, saggy pants, and even practicing necromancy.
While Valarie fortunately wasn’t jailed after her arrest, Vincent, a retired Marine, has been jailed on several occasions, and for days at a time. Perversely, Vincent was jailed in part for not having enough money to pay off Pagedale. The two estimate they have incurred at least $2,400 in non-traffic-related fines and fees. At one point, the town even threatened to demolish their home over petty code violations. “Every morning I wake up worried that I’ll get another ticket,” Valarie said. “This is life in Pagedale.”
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