UPDATED 3 p.m. with photos from press conference.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY • The Hazelwood Girl Scout cookie controversy is now in court.
A Hazelwood woman filed a lawsuit today challenging her city's warnings last month that she and her daughters should shut down their driveway cookie stand.
Carolyn Mills filed the civil suit in St. Louis County Court on behalf of her two daughters, Caitlin, 16, and Abigail, 14, who sold Girl Scout cookies from a stand in front of their home on Latty Avenue for the past five to six years.
The suit doesn't seek money, but rather a judge's ruling on Hazelwood's warnings that the Mills family was violating city codes by selling Girl Scout cookies from their home. The Girls Scouts of America are not affiliated with the lawsuit.
"The Mills family believes the Constitution protects citizens' rights to use their property in harmless ways," said their lawyer Dave Roland at a press conference in Clayton complete with a stand offering lemonade and cookies — these ones homemade. "And there's nothing quite as harmless as selling cookies."
Hazelwood spokesman Tim Davidson declined comment about the lawsuit because the city had not yet seen it. Davidson stressed that the city never ordered the Mills to close their cookie stand.
Asked whether Hazelwood was protecting the property rights of Mills' neighbors by warning the Mills family, Roland said he and the Mills have seen no evidence their cookie booth had increased traffic or harmed anyone else.
"We don't think there's any legitimate health and safety issue," said Roland, who co-founded the nonprofit Freedom Center of Missouri in St. Louis with his wife in November.
Last month, Carolyn Mills received a letter from Hazelwood's code enforcement division informing her that a neighbor had complained the Mills' cookie booth was increasing traffic and causing dogs to bark on her block. The letter warned Mills that selling products from their home without a permit violated the city's home occupancy codes.
The Mills family kept running their roadside cookie booth — waiting until the evening hours when they thought code enforcement would be off the clock — despite Hazelwood's warnings. They ultimately sold the last 36 boxes of shortbread cookies to the Rev. George "The Shoeman" Hutchings, a Manchester resident who collects shoes and sells them to buy supplies and build wells in Africa.
The Mills sold cookies past the Girl Scouts of America's official deadline in mid-March for selling all remaining cookies and turning over cookie proceeds to their troops.
Carolyn Mills said the warning put a damper on sales and the girls fell about 300 boxes short of their goal to sell 2,000 boxes.
Her youngest daughter, Hannah, is 5 and will soon begin selling Girl Scout cookies as well.
"We're hoping we can sell Girl Scout cookies again and help our Girl Scout troop and my sisters," Abigail said.