Maneuvers through obstacle course of issues in effort to reach the bounty of benefits growing in the urban garden
While the Urban Garden Task Force has a meeting scheduled every Tuesday night through September 1, Chairman Jack Wheeler, who is also the Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, told the Task Force they were not limited to only four meetings, "We can add days, too. We can do whatever we want," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said the charge of the task force was not set in stone. He invited comment after reading the charge but, there did not appear to be any interest in changing any of the language.
Many topics were discussed, including: conditional use permits versus permitted use; facilitation of urban gardening; existing city ordinances; the application process for conditional use permits and associated fees; federal grant availability; signage and; traffic concerns.
Four new members were added to the Task Force, Earl Slavens was one of the new members. Slavens is a resident of Ash Grove who is involved in a downtown revitalization effort in his city; Gary Shafer, a representative from the Greene County Baptist Association was another new member and; Mary McCarthy and "1,000 Gardens Project" associate Aubree Taylor completed the list.
Shafer said the Greene County Baptist Association is starting a mission outreach program by providing garden plots to people who do not have available garden space.
"We are talking about city wide, we admit there are things to be considered but, we want to point out the vision that every non-profit organization that has land that's not being used should consider putting it in, to the benefit of the citizens (to be used for urban garden space)," Shafer said.
One topic continued to be introduced throughout the meeting, Galen Chadwick, founder of the "Well Fed Neighbor Alliance" and the "1,000 Gardens Project," was concerned about what ability the City Council has to legislate when it comes to agricultural use of residential property.
"The outstanding question [is], whether or not the City has legal standing to enforce, regulate, or whatever, some of the things that may be coming up in here," Chadwick said. "I want that asterisk just put into the record."
Wheeler agreed it was an important issue.
"Agriculture does have special status under federal laws and state laws and so, you know, it is a different thing than just selling something else...so, that is a very, very important issue," Wheeler said. "I think everybody will want to see the state laws. I can't imagine Springfield would want to supercede that at all."
Yet, Wheeler reminded the group, under the present zoning laws, there is no provision for retail sales of anything in a residential district.
"You've got a little garage sale allowance that has some very severe restrictions," Wheeler said but, "basically, you can't sell anything in your yard. Now, that's the law."
According to research from the Missouri House of Representatives, "[The state] prohibition against a license or tax for sales of products from an urban garden would not prevent the amendment of the zoning ordinance to define and regulate urban gardens."
Another interesting topic was introduced by Director of Building Development Services Nick Heatherly. Heatherly noted there was nothing that mandated a conditional use permit be required.
"There's no requirement, in this case, that I'm aware of, that it has to be a conditional use. It could become a permitted use within the districts of the community, and you get to decide. It might be in all districts, [or] in some districts." Heatherly said. "With a permitted use, there is no fee."
Ray Shermer, who is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and an Urban Garden Task Force member, reminded the group repeatedly of the importance of considering the affects commercial sales of garden produce might have on their neighbors.
"I think this is a great opportunity to put something together, as long as we can accommodate all aspects of society and make it work together," Shermer said.