legal problems faced by community gardens
Do you have war stories about legal problems faced by community
garden organizations? I would like to hear them/read about them, and write
about them to draw more resources - from lawyers and local governments - to
addressing problems faced by garden organizations.
I am a law professor who directs a Community Development Clinic in which law
students represent community organizations. As a result of representation of
some client groups that operate community gardens, I have written an article
targetted to law students, lawyers, and public policy makers about state and
local laws on community gardening. The article is entitled "Community
Development Through Gardening: State and Local Policies Transforming Urban
Open Space", and will appear in volume 3 of the New York University Journal of
Legislation and Public Policy, due out in May. Recommendations from the
article will be published in ACGA's Community Greening Review this year. A
short summary of the article appears below.
To make the article more useful to garden groups and their legal
counsel, I would like to revise it to include anecdotes about actual legal
problems garden groups have faced. These might include, for example, problems
getting tax exempt status for a garden group, problems with title to land or
toxic substances on land, as well as other legal issues. Please send me
examples of problems, with or without identifying information, as you wish.
Please e-mail me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can do so
by May 20, that would be most helpful. If you prefer to talk, call me at
(410) 837-5650; or send me e-mail with your number and a good time to call and
I will call you back. Thank you in advance!
Summary of the article: This article addresses the legal framework of
state and local laws promoting community gardening. In particular, it
discusses laws in New York state, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, Austin,
Portland, and Seattle, among other jurisdictions. In fields outside of law,
community gardening has been recognized as an important force in revitalizing
blighted urban neighborhoods. A study of these laws reveals a disjuncture
between the legal provisions grounded in real estate concerns (liability
protection, owner's rights) and the often-celebrated community development
purposes (nuisance abatement, community building and environmental equity in
access to natural resources) of garden projects.
The conflict emerged in the 1999 New York case, analyzed along with companion
cases in this article, New York Environmental Justice Alliance v. Guiliani, 50
F.Supp.2d 250 (S.D.N.Y.1999), in which environmental organizations sought to
enjoin New York City from selling community gardens. The immediate dispute
was resolved by the purchase of gardens by Bette Midler's New York Restoration
Project. However, the conflict will reoccur until better processes exist for
meaningfully engaging the energies of residents of blighted neighborhoods in
revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Many state and local laws regarding
gardening have been drawn to minimize commitment to community gardeners so
that land will available for other use on short notice.
Some progressive localities have recognized that in some cases
dedication of garden land as parkland is appropriate, or that gardens should
be included in open space plans. Others recognize that redevelopment requires
a long lead time, and multi-year commitment to gardens is not only feasible
but beneficial. The article discusses legal issues facing community garden
organizations and the importance of intermediary organizations (such as land
trusts and non-profits that hold title or clear title to garden land).
University of Baltimore School of Law
Prof. Jane Schukoske
University of Baltimore School of Law
1420 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD. 21201
(410) 333-3053 (fax)
community_garden maillist - email@example.com