Tampa City Council lukewarm on community garden

11/13/08 Mitch E. Perry
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An attempt led by Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern to get a community garden built in East Tampa was slowed down today at the Council’s Community Redevelopment meeting.

Last month, Mulhern convened a workshop on community supported agriculture, and at today’s Community Redevelopment Area meeting (CRA), she hoped to begin such a garden in economically troubled East Tampa.

Mulhern said she hoped the success of the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Northwest Hillsborough County could help lend some expertise to whatever land the city would be able to use for such a garden.

Instead of getting support for the idea, Mulhern received substantial blowback from the Council.

Chairman Thomas Scott wasn’t sure if the intent of the CRA was to do something like a community garden- and he questioned Mulhern on what the East Tampa populace thought of the idea.

Councilwoman Gwen Miller said the area needed jobs, not a garden.

Councilman John Dingfelder said he thought there was great value in a community garden concept – but agreed that what the local community wanted was paramount.

But Mulhern pushed back; she said it would be an economic boon for the area, since vegetables have become more expensive, and there is a growing need for communities to become self-sustaning and healthier.

But then Charlie Miranda, said it was critical to get a legal opinion first to determine if the city could work through the CRA to develop such a project. And he said there wouldn’t be enough water to allow it to probably occur, anyhow.

Scott proposed a motion to have city staff speak with Swiftmud about the water situation, as well as clarifying the legal situation, and then come back with more information without going any further.

A disappointed Mary Mulhern said she wanted a discussion for the next East Tampa CRA meeting to be scheduled on the vegetable garden, and proposed it as a motion.

Mulhern’s motion ended up with a deadlock vote of 3-3, and therefore was rejected.

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