Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rosemary Community Garden

The issue with the city decision on the Rosmary Community Garden and the process used continues to stir deep feelings.

Jono Miller has written an excellent op-ed piece in the SHT. In part he says:
On Nov. 6, without bothering to notify any of the four dozen directly affected gardeners, or any neighbors or other stakeholders, the Sarasota City Commission held a 10-minute discussion to consider what is now the Rosemary Community Garden as a site for workforce housing. The commission was acting to seize an opportunity -- a grant with a mid-December deadline and the allure of $5 million.

No one asked if density could be moved off the garden site. No one asked how it did or didn't match up with the Rosemary District Neighborhood Action Strategy. No one asked what role the garden was playing in the Rosemary community or the city. No one asked if the gardeners should be notified and allowed to speak. After 10 minutes, the commissioners all voted to apply for the grant, which, if awarded and accepted, will mean the end of the Rosemary Community Garden. They had exercised their long-held right.

There are three problems: the first is why the affected stakeholders were not notified of the process. The second is the potential loss of the garden, and the third is the collateral effect on public opinion if people come to conclude that if this approach (destroying social capital, not consulting community plans, eliminating greenspace, ignoring assets, expunging a community garden, and not informing stakeholders) is representative of how advocates plan to treat the public in reaching community housing goals.

People are still debating how and why the gardeners received no notification of the discussion that could doom the garden. However that happened, it was wrong.

This lack of process and reactionary decision making is an issue that has come up again and again with the city commission.

The community garden has inherent community benefits that have not been given due consideration. This is also an on-going issue with the commission. How do we value the needs and desires of the entire community, how can we find solutions that satisify a broader segment of our community? These questions do not get asked by the commissioners and of course they are then not answered.

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