FARGO — Residents will be able to grow vegetable or flower gardens on their boulevards after Fargo city commissioners approved the policy change Monday night, May 18.

The interim policy that allows the gardens through Sept. 30 was approved 4-1.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, the lone dissenter, said he wanted to know how much it would cost the city.

He thought it was a "ridiculous" action to take on public property, noting he spent the weekend planting a garden in his backyard.

Piepkorn said it was "totally inappropriate" for the city commission to be voting on the change before it was considered by other boards, calling it a "feel-good" move during the coronavirus pandemic.

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That raised the ire of fellow Commissioner John Strand, who said it was a food security issue.

"If you are hungry, it's an emergency," he said.

Strand said he heard from a number of people who favored the option.

"We need to show that we are a community of compassion" during the pandemic, he said.

Kim Lipetzky, a leader in the Cass Clay Food Partners group and a nutritionist with Fargo Cass Public Health, added that the expense was with residents for the gardens and any other cost could easily be handled through the public health budget.

Under the policy that takes effect immediately, a permit is required before planting. The permit is free, Lipetzky said, because those involved in development noted it was only an interim program.

The permit application requires a resident to present a drawing of their plans for the boulevard, a listing of plants and a signed agreement that the resident will follow the program conditions.

Applications are handled online at https://fargond.gov/city-government/departments/fargo-cass-public-health/nutrition-fitness/let-s-eat-local and administered by Fargo Cass Public Health.

It was also noted that residents must call ND One Call or 811 for utility line locations at least 48 hours before digging.

Plants may not exceed 24 inches in height to prevent any sight line problems for drivers or pedestrians, they must be one foot away from the curb and sidewalk and a shredded hardwood mulch must be placed around the plants to prevent soil erosion.

River rock or similar materials for erosion or weed control are prohibited as well as retaining walls, fences or steps.

The mulch should be level with the sidewalk and curb.

When asked how many property owners she thought might do boulevard gardens, Lipetzky said "maybe only a handful."

She pointed out it was a viable option, though, as some property owners don't have backyards or enough sunshine in other parts of their yards to grow a garden.

Commissioner Tony Grindberg added a successful amendment to the policy that requires a full report on the program by Dec. 1 with photographs of all of the gardens and a list of any complaints.

He said earlier he may want to see the program continue on a permanent basis.