St. Petersburg proposes rigorous rules for community gardens — and soothsayers

More people are working in "community gardens" these days. Somebody offers the use of his lot, or a group rents one. Folks sign up, sometimes for a small fee, to grow their vegetables.

I went by one of these gardens on Highland Street S in St. Petersburg. There's a little sign in the middle that says, "The Plot Thickens." There are about 20 raised beds or plots inside a chain-link fence with tomatoes, collards and such.

You will be pleased to learn, I'm sure, that your local government is swinging into action to regulate this practice of rampant gardening.

I am looking at a copy of a proposed ordinance for the city of St. Petersburg, which bears this title:

AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG AMENDING THE CITY CODE BY CREATING A NEW SECTION 16.50.85 PROVIDING FOR COMMUNITY GARDENS; CREATING A NEW SECTION 16.70.030.1.13 PROVIDING FOR PROCEDURES FOR REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF AN ANNUAL COMMUNITY GARDENING PERMIT; PROVIDING FOR CONDITIONS OF APPROVAL; PROVIDING FOR SUSPENSIONS, REVOCATIONS AND APPEALS; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

You can guess most of the proposed rules: The garden has to be kept neat; no gardening at night (my favorite time for it); no trash or debris; everything must be stored on the rear of the lot; no "visual blight" or "offensive odors"; no selling vegetables on site.

There is, of course, the matter of the Community Garden Permit, which must be applied for annually. The permit will expire each Sept. 30. An application for renewal must be filed 30 days in advance. The applicant must notify all property owners within 200 feet of the application.

The city retains the right to deny the permit. If denied, gardeners may appeal to the Community Preservation Commission.

St. Petersburg, it should be noted, is not alone in garden-regulating. Safety Harbor just enacted such an ordinance, with some additional rules. For instance, gardeners there must follow the manufacturer's instructions when applying chemicals.

GARDENER: (Humming to self while spraying the garden when a man holding a clipboard suddenly jumps out of the cornfield.)

CITY INSPECTOR: Stop! I see that you have applied herbicide in excess of a dilution of approximately 1 tsp. per gallon of water, in violation of Ordinance 27-Slash-B! You'll have to come with me.

And yet, community gardeners in St. Petersburg are not alone in falling under the yoke of municipal regulation. So are soothsayers.

Soothsayers! No, really. Another proposed city ordinance says:

It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a phrenologist, astrologer, palmist, soothsayer, fortune teller, character reader, spirit medium, absent treatment healer, or mental healer, or any occupation of a similar nature for hire in the City without first obtaining a City business tax receipt.

The ordinance adds that "ordained ministers" are exempt. Again, there is a permit process, except that the Police Department will have to take the applicants' fingerprints before they can go off to do any fortune-telling.

Gardeners and soothsayers! Thus society is protected.

St. Petersburg proposes rigorous rules for community gardens — and soothsayers 05/25/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 3:20pm]

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