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City will allow community gardens to bloom after all 

Community gardens on city-owned property will be allowed to operate in 2020 after all, as long as they had permits to do so last year.

The policy is a notable shift from remarks made last week by city spokesperson Justin Roj, who had said the city would not be issuing permits for community gardens on city land this year in light of the health crisis and social distancing practices recommended to help slow infection.

City Hall will extend any community garden permit that was issued in 2019 to last through the 2020 growing season, Roj said in a conference call Monday. He was joined on the call by City Councilmember Mitch Gruber, the chair of the Parks and Public Works Committee.

The city only issues permits for community gardens on vacant lots that it owns — property owners and renters don’t need permits to garden at home.

Roj attributed the discrepancy to miscommunication. He explained that three city departments have some role in community gardens, and said he had only been in touch with one prior to making his remarks to CITY last week.

“That’s part of the challenge of operating during this time and operating where you can’t simply grab a conference room and hash this out in five minutes and get some answers,” Roj said.

CITY’s article, published Friday, sparked conversation among the three departments and city officials, which led to “clarity” on how the city would approach community gardens, Gruber and Roj said.

The city will use its database of community gardens to issue permit extensions, Roj said. But he said that permits will also come with the advice that gardeners wear masks and gloves when on site, a recommendation that community garden organizers across the country are making.

Gruber added that gardeners will be urged to do as much prep work from their homes as possible.

To help community gardeners, as well as city residents who want to garden at home, Gruber said the city will produce a weekly video to help people green their thumbs. For that effort, the city will be partnering with the Urban Agriculture Working Group, Gruber said.

“We really do want to encourage people to prioritize social distancing and make sure that the city is not encouraging in any way the congregating of large amounts of people in a small plot like the community garden,” Gruber said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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