ZEPHYRHILLS — The city's sustainability plan touts community gardens as one avenue leading to a greener community.
Now the City Council is making it happen. On Monday evening, the council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that amends the city's zoning laws, allowing for the creation and maintenance of community gardens anywhere in the city — except the airport.
"I think this is great," said council member Lance Smith. "Growing up, everyone had one, but it was out of necessity."
City planner Todd Van de Berg and Tammy Vrana, the consultant who produced the sustainability plan, pointed out several benefits to community gardens. They attract folks of all ages and backgrounds, working together to produce crops of fresh food.
The educational benefits to young people who think grocery stores are responsible for much of the food they eat are incalculable, said Vrana.
Plus, it's fun.
"It's for everybody," said Vrana. "You can look at all parts of a community and find people that are interested in playing in the dirt."
The ordinance lays out a few ground rules: No gardening before sunup or after sundown, put away all tools and supplies each day, and do your best to stay organic by avoiding pesticides and other chemicals.
"Tonight, we're taking a baby step," said Van de Berg. "We'll start with the ordinance, then we'll start looking for locations."
The ordinance has no impact on individual private gardens, Van de Berg added.
When the time comes, the city will seek guidance on promoting the gardening endeavors of those who have gone before, like the cities of Temple Terrace and Safety Harbor, he said.
The measure will come back to City Council for a final vote April 8.