Isn't it special that some members of staff in the City of Springfield want to "allow" all zoning districts in the City of Springfield to grow an "urban garden?"
What? You thought you already had the ability to plant a vegetable or flower garden at your home within the City limits of Springfield, Missouri? I did too!
Imagine my surprise when I realized that we , apparently, have no hope, as residents of the City of Springfield, of planting vegetables, fruit and flowers on our property until the City recommends and the Council authorizes it, through modifications and additions to the City's Zoning Ordinance.
The City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) aren't scheduled to seriously consider allowing us to garden in our yards until July of this year. By the time Council passes these zoning modifications and additions, it will be too late to even put out a garden this summer. Sufferin' Succotash!
Last night, the City Council passed a one reading, consent agenda bill that sounds warm and fuzzy on its surface. The explanation of Council bill 2009-124 states:
"This amendment is being proposed to allow for more sustainable living in neighborhoods around the City. Municipalities across the country are recognizing the benefits of urban gardens and sustainability which ultimately result in an improved community or neighborhood environment. This amendment would allow these types of uses in all zoning districts either by right or with conditions."
It's those conditions I'm concerned about. You see, I thought we already had a right to plant a garden at our houses. I thought we already had a right to plant a garden in a flower bed or container at our businesses.
You don't think this "review" and these "recommendations" are really about giving you, as a citizen of this City, the right to garden or about "allowing" you to plant a garden, regardless of your particular zoning district, do you? Did the Council believe that when they voted in support of the bill?
It seems to me, what unidentified "staff" members of the City are really proposing to give you is more government regulation, and perhaps, attached taxes, and permit fees, depending on your use. Someone in the City will determine what use is a right and what use should be conditional for you at some later date. Don't worry your little head, pretty or otherwise, over it.
The Council gave approval last night for the Planning and Zoning Commission to "begin a process of review and recommendations," with the promise to "return to the Council at a later date." In the meantime, not even 24 hours later, through this news release, we can get an indication of the real proposal.
Straight from Tuesday's news release:
The following changes to the Zoning Ordinance are proposed:
* Add the definition of "Urban Gardens" in Section 2-1100;
* Modify the Permitted Uses section in all zoning districts to allow low-intensity urban garden uses;
* Modify the Conditional Uses section in residential zoning districts to allow more intense urban garden uses;
* Add a section to the Conditional Use Standards that addresses intensity issues such as noise, heavy machinery, hours of operation, accessory buildings, off-street parking, chemicals and fertilizers, and retail or wholesale businesses located on the premise, and;
* Delete all references to truck gardens, which are not defined, in the Zoning Ordinance.
I'm left wondering why these proposed regulations (oh, I'm sorry, "modifications and additions") were not included in the explanation for the bill that Council passed last night? Why could the City not have shared more of the details about what they had in mind, prior to asking for authorization for P & Z to "review" what, clearly, "staff" has been considering for who knows how long?
Further, during a time when Springfield's City Manager Greg Burris is reiterating, during budget deliberations, that City staff are working harder and leaner than ever, due to a hiring freeze and sacrifices of full time positions through attrition, why are they worried about peoples' gardens and how to regulate them, today? Won't this create more work for, what Burris keeps inferring, is an already frazzled City staff?
The news release tells us there will be two public hearings, one at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on July 9, and one at the Springfield City Council meeting on Monday, July 27. Both meetings will be held in the City Council Chambers, on the third floor of Historic City Hall, at 7 pm.
According to the news realease,"A staff report describing the proposed amendment in detail will be delivered to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public on Thursday, July 2, 2009." The report does not say what department of "staff" is working on the report, to be delivered to P & Z and the public.
You can contact Daniel Neal, Senior City Planner at 864-1036 for more information.