City Hall Still Trying to Find "Best Solution" for Those Who Want to Community Garden

scottandmarianagriggs.jpg
Sara Kerens
Scott and Mariana Griggs at the "West Dallas Country Club," otherwise known as their community garden
You probably forgot all about City Hall's efforts to regulate community gardens -- after all, it's been about two months since the topic came up at the council's Transportation and Environment Committee meeting on August 12. At that point, maybe you recall, the council finally decided to go with the sixth option presented, which involved would-be gardeners doling out $215 in annual permit fees and other regulations at least one gardener -- Mariana Griggs, activist and president of Community Gardens of Oak Cliff -- deemed "disappointing" in a letter to Mayor Tom and the council.

But just this morning, the Zoning Ordinance Committee met to discuss how to proceed -- with Option No. 6 or one of the other five presented in recent months. Or ZOC -- which made no final recommendations, as you'll see after the jump -- can go any which way it wants. Because, see, the TEC's green-thumbs-up isn't binding, reminds Kris Sweckard, managing director in the Office of Environmental Quality. Matter of fact, he reminded Unfair Park yesterday, "ZOC can come up with something different" altogether. Then that plan goes to the City Plan Commission; then, the city council, whose members barely agreed on the most recent option after bickering over its predecessors.

I asked Sweckard yesterday if he's getting at all frustrated with the process, which is guaranteed to drag out for a long while following the results of today's meeting (more on that after the jump). Because what I know of Sweckard, he'd probably like to see this get done sooner than later -- and made as simple and straight-forward as possible for those who just wanna plant.

"Our objective from the beginning has been to pass the best solution for the gardeners, the city and the community, and that's been hard for the council," he says. "Some on the council, they fall on the side of residents and say, 'If I am living in a house next to a vacant lot, do I want a community garden there?' Some say yes, and some say no. Most support it, but there is some 'not in my backyard' syndrome-- they don't wnat it next to them, but it's fine elsewhere.

"There are concerns over foot traffic and having extra cards and people in some neighborhoods. That's what I've heard. But part of being public servant means you have to divorce yourself from your beliefs. I just try to find the best solitions. It's part of the job."

So, then, how'd it go today? I asked Sweckard moments ago, and he replied via e-mail thusly:
ZOC is going to continue discussion at their next meeting (scheduled for Oct 21st). There was a lot of good discussion and additional clarity gained around any changes only impacting gardens as a specific use (not as an accessory to a main use such as a house, school, church, etc.). The gardening community was well represented, and the Committee listened to and considered a lot of comments from them.

Three options were considered for moving forward: 1) do nothing and everything continues as it is today; 2) recommend some type of ordinance like those proposed to TEC to establish Community Gardens as a specific use; 3) amend current section of code related to crop production to fit in Community Gardens. No consensus was reached, and discussion will continue at the next meeting.

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