Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mary, Mary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

This is a news release from the City Of Springfield regarding "Urban Gardens":

Citizens interested in the topic of commercially oriented urban gardening are invited to attend the meetings of the Urban Garden Task Force, which will hold its first session at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009, at the Busch Building.

The Task Force has four meetings scheduled over a one-month period to research, review and summarize the issues for a recommendation back to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

The Task Force was formed to determine how best to balance the interest in business or commercially oriented urban gardens in Springfield with the potential for additional activity or disruption in neighborhoods. Currently, Springfield’s Zoning Ordinance does not cover this type of activity, so the community input will be valuable in developing zoning recommendations. The Task Force is not addressing private or non-commercial gardens.

All meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m., in the Busch Building 4th floor conference room. The schedule for the meetings includes:

Aug. 11: Overview of the urban gardening concept; how an ordinance is structured and potential neighborhood impact.

Aug. 18: Review of intensity issues such as accessory structures, parking and public facilities such as restrooms; stormwater and water quality issues; and pesticide use.

Aug. 25: Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park pilot project; examples of liability and legal requirements of urban gardens.

Sept. 1: Draft report and discussion; recommendations for Planning & Zoning Commission.

Jack Wheeler, Chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission, will chair the Task Force. Other members include: Jay McClelland; Ray Shermer; Curtis Millsap; Melissa Millsap; Galen Chadwick; Petra Butler; King Coltrin; and Nancy Brown Dornan.

The Charge to the Task Force is the following: To enable, facilitate, and encourage the development of Urban Gardens as a commercial enterprise to maximize local food resources and the use of non-productive or vacant lots in such a manner as to be non-invasive to the community or neighborhood.

For more information, contact: Senior Planner Daniel Neal, 864-1036.
The Charge to the Task Force carrys wording that should raise RED FLAGS to everyone. "The development of Urban Gardens as a commercial enterprise....and the use of non-productive or vacant lots in such a manner as to be non-invasive to the community or neighborhood."

The issue is this: Should the City of Springfield change zoning laws to allow an individual to start a commercial enterprises in a residential neighborhood?

At its basest level, this is about changing zoning from residential to retail. If you open the door for Urban Gardens, which carry a sort of 'warm fuzzy' feeling, then how can you not open the door for a paint store or a clothing store or a car lot?

I am all for sharing our surplus produce with our neighbors. There is a program in place right now which carries out the charge of neighbors helping neighbors.

This "Urban Garden" thingie, what with it becoming a commercial enterprise, goes against the concept as I understand it.

It is one thing for neighbors to band together to help those less fortunate than them and it is quite another thing to make a commercial enterprise.

The Urban Garden task force would be wise to follow the lead of the "Harvest On Wheels".

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