Then you need to drive to 320 East Jefferson Ave., Room 318, and get two 18-by-24-inch tax plat maps with the area of your garden outlined in red. The lobbyists tell me that if you fail to outline your garden in red on the tax plat maps, the city will sideline your entire request for error. But they won't tell you. Only if you go back to check how things are going will you discover that you have failed to outline your garden in red on your tax plat maps. It's sort of like, "I am your teacher, Miss Wiesckoviczekalieski. Any student who misspells my name on his or her paper will have that paper discarded with a grade of zero. Ha. Ha. Ha."

You also need a correct metes and bounds description of your garden and/or an engineer's survey. Then you need to get back in your car and go to City Hall to have your metes and bounds description or survey tested in City Hall's computer to see if it "closes," meaning the city computer agrees that it works.

You need to go to the County Records Building and get a copy of the deed. You need to go back to City Hall with the deed and get a copy of the "tax certificate," showing that the taxes are paid, and another certificate showing there are no liens on the property, both of which you get from City Hall in order to give back to City Hall.

Want to start a community garden?
City Hall may have a few hoops for you to jump through.
Want to start a community garden? City Hall may have a few hoops for you to jump through.

You need to fill out a traffic impact worksheet. If the traffic impact worksheet comes out a certain way (sort of like those personality quizzes in magazines), then you will need to hire a traffic engineer to do a traffic study for your garden.

You need 10 folded site plans, all oversized from Kinko's at considerable expense, and 10 folded landscape plans. By the way, you have to submit all of this stuff twice—once for the staff and again for your hearing before the city plan commission, which we are coming to. The staff can't give their copy to the plan commission. And don't ask. It's like Ms. Wiesckoviczekalieski. Just obey or kiss your ass good-bye.

You need to submit a completed tree survey. If you don't know how to do a tree survey, I don't know what to tell you. Go to tree survey school. Every little chance we get, let's pick up the pace, OK?

You need a list of your partners, principals and officers, a completed application form and several checks. It's sort of hard to add up. A check for $1,170 for the privilege of filing the application. A check to pay for the signs the city will post to warn the neighbors of your plans, at $10 apiece. A check for something like $300, maybe more, to pay for the legal advertisements the city will publish to notify people.

There's so much I have left out, like screened off-street parking, enhanced vehicular pavement, permeable vehicular pavement, 2-caliper-inch trees, genus names for plants. But here's the point. When you do get all of this sorted out, then it's time to start the hard part. The politics.

Any neighbor who doesn't like your idea for a garden can contact the plan commission or the city council and put the knife in your back. You need to try to get in to see as many plan commission members as you can but especially the one in your own district, who will have final say-so over this, and probably also the council member in your district.

If the council or plan commission member says, "I might like your idea, or I might not, but meanwhile I would like to recommend some really good community garden subcontractors," then you need to try to look all around the office under flower pots and behind paintings and stuff to see if you can find any FBI listening devices. What a shame, you only wanted to do a community garden, you should wind up doing three to five in the Big House instead. Just saying. You watch the news. Be careful what you agree to.

Somewhere in here I suppose I have to deal with what some might consider hypocrisy. Recently in writing about problems in the Lower Greenville Avenue entertainment district, I expressed qualified enthusiasm for a plan to require special use permits for bars as a way of curbing noxious activities.

I did speak with some non-noxious landlords on Lower Greenville who told me they really hated the idea of being required to get special use permits. I feel their pain. What if somebody told me I needed a special use permit to keep my family in my house?

But then that's also the point, isn't it? Special use permits are appropriate for activities that involve large numbers of people puking and urinating on other people's lawns. It's a nuclear option.

I live in an urban area, and I have seen a whole lot of bad behavior there in my time. But I have never seen mobs of gardeners stumbling across lawns, urinating on the shrubbery and throwing up. If I ever did, I think I would fear it was a sign of the end times.

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