City Hall Continues to Bury Community Gardens Under Permits and Procedures

On this beautiful Saturday morning following National Public Gardens Day, here's the absolute latest concerning City Hall's  deeply felt desire to regulate community gardens.

First, the recap: Back on March 8 Kris Sweckard, director of the Office of Environmental Quality, put before the council's Transportation and Environment Committee three options that would allow Dallas citizens to plant community gardens -- one of which involved shelling out an are-you-effing-kidding $1,170 for a specific use permit. To which  most of the council members said, "Uh ... no." And so off they went to try, try again.

And here's what Sweckard's come up with: a fourth option known as "Gardens By Right with Neighbor Input." It's spelled out in the briefing docs for Monday's meeting, but long story short ...

First the city needs a letter from the owner of a property that says, yes, it's fine for someone to garden on his or her land. Then the city wants a site plan from the operator of said garden. Then the city wants "a list of names and addresses of all property owners located within 200 feet of the proposed location of the community garden with signatures of the owners of at least 50% of the number of lots evidencing support of the operation of a community garden." Then, if the city gets all that, the city wants $215 for a certificate of occupancy.

But, if the operator of can't get the required number of signatures, then the city will notify everyone living within 500 feet of the proposed garden and call a public hearing. Then the city will want $500 for holding a hearing.

On top of this, if I read the document correctly, under this fourth option, the operators of the garden wouldn't be able to harvest and sell their goods, which was allowable at least twice a year under all three of the original three proposals.

This still has to pass TEC. Then, the Zoning Ordinance Committee. Then, the City Plan Commission. Then, the city council.

I'm heading out to the White Rock Local Market in a few. I'll put the proposal in my pocket and see what some of the producers think. But I can imagine.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky