By Dell deChant
The City Council of New Port Richey is considering an improvement to the city’s urban agriculture polices, taking the form of two new ordinances that allow for gardens on residential properties, and in most zoning districts in the city. There is considerable interest and support for these ordinances, which come to the council with the full support of the city’s Environmental Committee. The second reading of the ordinances will occur at the City Council meeting on June 7.
The proposed ordinances are excellent public policy instruments and will definitely enhance the quality of life in New Port Richey. A long list of popular and professional publications supports the benefits of residential and community gardens. Links to these publications have been shared over the years with elected officials and the city staff.
The opportunities created by the ordinances will definitely appeal to residents and persons thinking of moving here. Urban agriculture is a trending amenity, and forward-looking cities around the nation are creating opportunities for residents to use their properties for agricultural endeavors, which promote food production, exercise, good health and socialization. City planners in Portland; Seattle; Austin, Texas; and numerous other cities know this, and many of us have seen it firsthand right here in some of the agriculture districts of New Port Richey.
One new topic of relevance and interest is the relationship of the urban agriculture ordinances to the recently passed “front-porch ordinance.” The many virtues extolled for having front porches are exactly the same as those for front gardens. They are remarkably similar in the benefits they bring — and there are good reasons for seeing front gardens as being even more beneficial than front porches. Frontyard gardens work even better than front porches for promoting neighborliness and social interaction.
The planning and development office of the city has done an outstanding job in drafting ordinances that are clear, succinct and reflective of best practices. The ordinances have been carefully reviewed by the Environmental Committee of the city, which includes renters and property owners with homes ranging from those of modest value to high value. Members include a farmer, two community gardeners, two members with degrees in environmental science and public policy, and a scholar who researches ecology and culture — including food policy systems. The Environmental Committee has voted unanimously in support of the ordinances. Urban gardens grow much more than healthy food; they grow healthy communities, a sense of place, appreciation for neighbors and neighborhoods, and respect for others.
Wherever we have urban agriculture in the city we have increased civic engagement, socialization, community spirit and neighborliness. The ordinances before the council will expand and enrich these vital features of a healthy social ecology.
With the support of the City Council on June 7, these ordinances will further enhance New Port Richey’s appeal to individuals, families and businesses looking for a healthy and sustainable community to call home. What a great city!
Dell deChant is chairman of the city of New Port Richey’s Environmental Committee, a founding member of Food Policy Advisory Council of Pasco County, a member of the board of directors of Ecology Florida and the steering committee for Friendship Farms & Fare. He is associate chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida.