St Pete City Council approves community gardens ordinance and moves toward design'g Al Lang a park

06/04/09 Seán Kinane
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Today the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance allowing community gardens on vacant private property in the city.

A community garden has already been developed in Bartlett Park. Andrea Hildebran is participating in that effort. Hildebran founded an organization, Green Florida, to help create community gardens and form a network to promote them. “They provide food for people.”

On Wednesday, the city’s development review commission unanimously recommended approval of the ordinance. Gail Eggeman likes the community gardening ordinance, except for the part that forbids selling anything on the property.

“We tend to forget in this community that not everybody has a car. … Don’t make vegetables contraband.”

Private property owners interested in creating community gardens on their vacant land will have to pay $50 to apply for a permit and $50 for the permit, which must be renewed each year, according to Julie Weston, director of the city’s Development Services Department. They also have to notify neighbors.

City Council member Karl Nurse initiated the process in council to create a community garden ordinance. Nurse says that other cities, like Tampa, are looking at St. Petersburg for ideas.

“Community gardens were not legal in St. Petersburg prior to this.”

City Council unanimously passed the community gardens ordinance.

Two years ago the Council promised to rezone the Al Lang Field site as a waterfront park. On Thursday they moved within a final public hearing of keeping their word. The site had been coveted by Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays for a proposed new stadium, until they acknowledged last month that the site was no longer being considered. Rick MacAulay, manager of urban planning, design, and historic preservation with the City of St. Petersburg, says the site of Al Lang Field is already designated a park in the City’s charter.

Hal Freedman, chair of POWW, Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront, praises the actions by City Council on Thursday for “providing additional protection for the waterfront parks.”

The height restriction of the Al Lang Field land was made consistent with parks. The park designation and the other zoning issues of Al Lang were approved on first reading and will receive a final public hearing before the City Council on June 18th.

On Thursday St. Pete City council did not bring up a proposed voter referendum supported by POWW and others, including Mayoral candidates Jamie Bennett and Kathleen Ford. Freedman says it would “give the same charter protection to the waterfront parks from the public sector that now exists for the private sector.”

Freedman says that the City Council has included that measure in a master waterfront plan for next year rather than adding it to this fall’s ballot.

In other action on Thursday, the Council unanimously approved a referendum to appear on the September 1st primary ballot which, if passed, would have the Pinellas County Canvassing Board oversee all future St. Petersburg elections at no cost to the city. Currently, the St. Pete City Council appoints a canvassing board to oversee city elections. It includes council members not involved in the election in question.


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