Thursday, August 06, 2009

The City of Springfield Could be an Innovative Urban Garden Leader

Instead, Task Force meeting topics appear to focus primarily on troubleshooting potential problems; little on enabling, facilitation, and encouragement of urban gardens

To be clear, troubleshooting potential problems has to play a part in any urban garden ordinance brought for the review of the Springfield Planning and Zoning Department and potential approval of the City Council, however, more focus should be given on creative and innovative ways to encourage urban gardening throughout the City of Springfield.

I found two articles, "The City that Ended Hunger," and "Food to Stay - How a local food system builds health and community wealth," some time ago, and with yesterday's City news release that the Urban Garden Task Force will hold it's first of 4 meetings, beginning at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday August 11, I thought it would be an appropriate time to bring these articles to the attention of those who are interested in the urban garden issue.

According to the news release, the task force has four meetings scheduled over the next month:

* 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.

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.

Members of the Task Force are: Jay McClelland; Ray Shermer; Curtis Millsap; Melissa Millsap; Galen Chadwick; Petra Butler; King Coltrin; Nancy Brown Dornan and; the Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Jack Wheeler, will serve as the Chair person for the task force.

To be honest, I'm not sure 4 meetings will really offer the urban garden task force an opportunity to fully explore the issue at the level I would have liked to have seen it explored.

The actions Springfield takes on this issue have the potential to enter into the property rights arena; set the stage for a healthier, more self-reliant community and; if handled with a creative spirit, could have great economic benefits for the entire community so, I'd like to see the City actually take the time to fully explore the possibilities for the advancement of our community without a restrictive time table.

The City of Springfield should not feel rushed to advance legislative policy on an issue that affects the entire City and its population simply because Melissa Millsap, who will be serving on the task force, would like to advance her personal plan to purchase another residential lot, adjacent to her existing residential lot, for the purpose of farming and setting up a commercial stand.

It seems like I remember a time when City officials, elected and otherwise, used to talk about being leaders but, until Springfield City government slows down and ceases to act like legislative policy must be accomplished as though running a race, I don't believe our Council will have the opportunity to approve innovative and creative policy.

Too often I, and other members of the community, get the feeling these committees and task forces are set up to shush the masses rather than really examine an issue.

I don't think the public wants a series of window-dressing-task-forces, set up to give the impression or change public perception to a belief the City is taking public input or truly studying important and vital issues. I think the public wants the City to actually do the work. Study, research, be creative, be leaders, put forth well thought out policy that will work in practice and that will benefit the community.

Too often, legislation simply offsets problems that might arise as a result of an approved activity. I think the public would like our City officials to get out of the way of the people who want to benefit the entire community by adding, in this case, to the locally available, healthy food supply, not to simply consider the problems that could arise as a result of such an activity. What about the benefits?

Troubleshooting should be an aspect of public policy but, government restrictions on the public should be the most restricted of all governmental actions taken.

If the City feels it must propose policy as though running a race, instead of a sprint, I'd like to see the race to legislative policy be run as a marathon. When finished, I'd like to see the task force panting but proud, having finished the race to bring the most creative, unrestrictive, economically beneficial recommendations possible to the Planning and Zoning Commission and, in turn, to our elected City Council for consideration.

Again, the charge of the task force the City has appointed, claims the City seeks, "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."

Oh, and by the way, do it in four meetings, yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.

State statute appears to give great room for innovation on the issue, the City should take all the room afforded to them, and all the time they need. There is an opportunity for Springfield to truly lead by example on this issue.

If you would like to attend the urban garden task force meetings they will all be held in the 4th floor conference room at the Busch Municipal Building.



Jack said...

Didn't two bloggers start all the trouble in the first place by criticizing and questioning the whole thing?

Jackie Melton said...

I think that would depend on what the definition of "trouble" is.

Yeah, for the most part, the bus driver over at busplunge and myself are the only two in Springfield reporting much on this issue of urban gardens.

You could say I'm in "good" company. ;)

Melissa said...

Sounds Good! I would like to see Springfield lead by example on some of the zoning ordinance change. I also think it may and should take more than four weeks. I want to see this done right so lets take all the time needed in order to do so.

Jack said...

I like your brand of trouble, frankly.

Aubree said...

Springfield is an amazing community. We have so many gardens already and an abundance of Farmers Markets. The 1000 Gardens Project alone inspired over 3,500 new gardens in only a few months. Every District has plenty or room for an Urban Farm and every Neighborhood Association could organize a community Farmers Market and every church with available land could organize an out-reach program. Surely we can identify land that is not being used. We could eliminate hunger in the Ozarks, grow natural healthy food here locally, create a school-garden program, improve our horrid school and hospital food and create new jobs...what do we have to lose?