I really wanted to wait this out and see what develops when the staff report, describing the proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance regarding urban gardens, is delivered to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public but, in light of the recent news release from the Public Information Office, this posting at "busplunge," and Wednesday night's entry at the City's Web log, "CityConnect," I do have something to add.
The news release as well as the first paragraph of the "CityConnect" blog piece (which is quoted here) states:
"On Monday, City Council approved initiating a zoning change that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens...."
On Monday, the City Council did approve a one reading, consent agenda resolution pertaining to urban gardens but, I'm not sure that the above paragraph is a fair characterization of what the City Council approved, at least not as far as the public might have been concerned.
On the agenda, which was available to the public at Monday's City Council meeting or can be acquired from the City Clerk's office, and online, ^ the bill summary read:
"A resolution to initiate an amendment to the Springfield Land Development Code, Article 1, Zoning Ordinance, Division IV, that all zoning districts shall permit urban garden uses. (Planning Staff recommends approval.)"
The bill originated in the Planning and Development Department.
The bill's stated purpose was:
"To approve a resolution initiating an amendment to the Springfield Zoning Ordinance to permit urban garden uses in all zoning districts. (Staff recommends approval)."
In my posting Tuesday, I quoted a part of the explanation to the bill Council passed on Monday night.
Following are the complete Staff comments under the explanation to the bill:
"This amendment would allow urban garden uses with certain conditions in all zoning districts. Urban gardens are considered a community or market garden where an individual or groups of individuals grow and harvest food crops and/or non food, ornamental crops, such as flowers for personal, group use, consumption, donation or to be sold for profit.
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.
Approval of this resolution will not amend the Zoning Ordinance but only begins the process of review and recommendations by staff and Planning and Zoning Commission. Staff will return to City Council with those recommendations at a public hearing at a later date."
Maybe I would be picking a nit to note there was nothing said about less-intense urban gardens versus higher-intensity gardens or about a requirement for a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens mentioned in the agenda summary, or the bill's stated purpose, or the explanation to the bill the Council approved on Monday night.
I don't know, maybe it won't raise any eyebrows among the City Council to read such a characterization of what they approved on Monday night. They will be the ones who will consider and either approve or disapprove of any final amendment the staff brings to them at a later date but, this sort of a seeming discrepancy between what was presented for public consumption and the, later, news release and "CityConnect" characterizations of what the Council approved bothers me.
The information about what the Council was approving on Monday night that was provided for public consumption said nothing about low intensity versus high intensity "urban gardens," neither was their any mention of a required conditional-use permit for higher intensity urban gardening. The only words giving any indication that there would be conditions applied came within the staff's comments in the explanation to the bill.
Less than 24 hours after the City Council passed the resolution "to initiate an amendment to the Springfield Land Development Code, Article I, Zoning Ordinance, Division IV, that all zoning districts shall permit urban garden uses," the Public Information Office put out the news release which stated:
"The Springfield City Council Monday approved initiating a zoning amendment that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens."
The news release also notes:
"Council Bill 2009-124 simply starts the process to consider this text amendment to Springfield's Zoning Ordinance."
Now, like I wrote in the introduction to this blog entry, I had really hoped to let this rest until, at least, July 2, when the report detailing the amendment is to be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public but, it seems to me what was presented for public consumption regarding the intent of this proposed amendment and what it is shaking out to be are two different things.
If it was so easy to characterize exactly what the amendment sought to accomplish through the Council's "initiation," in a news release on Tuesday, and a City Web log entry on Wednesday evening, why wasn't that terminology expressed in the summary, the stated purpose, or the explanation to the bill approved by the City Council Monday night?
Then, to find out on Wednesday that what has turned out to be a broad, general, proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance, which could result in affecting all citizens of all zones within the Queen City, originated as a result of a couple in west Springfield who, essentially, want to run a truck farm in the middle of a residential area of the City?
I am troubled by the presentation the citizens of this City were offered regarding this bill. If the bill/resolution the Council approved on Monday night was to initiate "a zoning amendment that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens," then, it seems to me, that is what the bill's agenda summary, and the bill's stated purpose should have read, instead the summary and stated purpose mentioned nothing about conditions, nothing about low versus high intensity urban gardens, and nothing about a requirement for a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens.
This sort of official presentation, versus what the City is really planning, is a perfect example of why, I believe, the citizens of this City are suspicious and feel they must keep a close eye on Springfield City government.
Note: All emphasis mine.