Community Gardens Growing Red Tape

Dallas City Council proposes plan to use privately-owned lots

New rules intended to encourage more community gardens in Dallas were endorsed Wednesday by a City Council committee.

City leaders said they want community gardens to thrive, but many gardeners have complained the new rules will only make more red tape grow. 

The plan would make gardening a use allowed “by right” on vacant residential property in Dallas.  A group of gardeners who disapprove of the plan protested, and two council members voted "no."

Under the proposal, a new community garden on residential land would require written approval of the property owner, signatures of approval from at least 50 percent of surrounding property owners within 200 feet and a site plan and certificate of occupancy permit approved by City Hall. 

Gardeners who don’t comply with city codes would face fines.

Councilwoman Carolyn Davis described the new rules as "terrible" and said they were "really harsh."  Councilwoman Linda Koop, who leads the committee, said neighbors want assurances that gardens won't become a nuisance. 

“So, there’s a few small rules, I think, we can put on it, but we’re certainly promoting gardens and community gardens," Koop said. "That’s a terrific, healthy lifestyle and choice.”

Volunteers for Our Savior Community Gardens at Pleasant Grove Church, which has been operating for more than six years, distribute fruits and vegetables to local food banks.

“It really bridges different groups, helps, you know, your neighbors,” said garden supporter Rebecca Smith. “It helps crime. That’s been proven. It helps nutrition."

Other people who work with community gardens in North Texas disapprove of the proposed plan.

“It’s not something the city has to pay for. It’s not something they have to organize. It just happens because people are able to get together and do it, if there are not barriers in their way,” said Don Lambert, director of Gardeners in Community Development.

The leaders of Our Savior Gardens said the proposed new rules would be difficult for inner-city neighborhoods to follow.

“It’s just too much of a complication -- COs and permits and having special lighting and all that kind of stuff,” said gardener Amanda Brown.

More: The new rules were labeled as “Option 4” in a briefing presented to the Dallas City Council Transportation and Environment Committee Monday. The committee voted to send Option 4 to the Dallas Plan Commission for additional study and a future vote of the full Dallas City Council. Read more about "Option 4" here.

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