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Archives for January 2, 2013

Cascade of projects may dominate news in 2013

Strap on your seatbelt and get ready for a whirlwind year in which many of the issues that merited headlines in 2012 come around again — in the case of Napa Pipe, perhaps finally — while new projects come to the fore.

The Napa Pipe project will have a meeting before the Napa County Board of Supervisors Jan. 14 that could provide a long-awaited vote on the developers’ request for General Plan and zoning amendments. Those amendments, if approved, would allow for the project to eventually seek building permits and begin construction on more than 700 housing units and a Costco discount store.

The now-vacant Cinedome building in downtown Napa could be demolished early this year, setting the stage for private redevelopment once the flood control project protects the site from inundation.

This could be the year that one of the city’s oldest landmarks, the Borreo building at Third Street and Soscol Avenue, is restored for contemporary uses. The Land Trust of Napa County is negotiating with the city to purchase the structure, which may house the trust’s offices and a boutique winery.

In the coming year, the city plans to construct the China Point Overlook Park at the southwest corner of Soscol and First Street. And next summer, it plans build a million-dollar boat dock in front of the Riverfront mixed-use project.

On a smaller scale, the city is planning to build a more aesthetic trash enclosure at Dwight Murray Plaza and repair sidewalks in the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church area.

Opening up First through Fourth streets to two-way traffic in downtown could also begin this year, ending years of debate over traffic flow and what works best for merchants and the public.

A citizens group, with some city financing, may build the Napa 9/11 Memorial Garden in 2013 after overcoming financial issues.

The former Copia and future Ritz Carlton sites on First Street near Silverado Trail could also see development progress in 2013, assuming the city likes plans for the Copia site and financing for a high-end resort across the river is finally forthcoming.

The focus of attention at Lake Berryessa in 2013 will continue to be on the resorts’ operations and the number of tourists they are able to draw, as the Bureau of Reclamation seeks to line up new short- and long-term concessionaires.

It will be worth keeping an eye on the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley’s pursuit for federal recognition; the tribe successfully ousted Napa and Sonoma counties from its lawsuit last fall, and the counties have appealed.

The counties fear that the tribe would pursue building a casino by wielding recognition as a means of taking some land into trust, thus exempting it from local land-use and zoning laws.

More developments on the appeal and the tribe’s attempt to settle the suit — which could result in it regaining recognition — are expected this year.

The Lincoln Theater in Yountville, dark for nearly all of 2012, will reopen in 2013 with a new game plan.

Michael Madden, interim managing director, and Barbara Brogliatti, president of the new Lincoln Theater Foundation board, announced in November that an infusion of support from IMG Artists, as well as residents, had pulled the theater back from the brink of bankruptcy. After moving back into the theater Dec. 1, a year after the theater closed, they said they would have a preliminary schedule in January and a more detailed schedule by March.

“Our goal is not to compete with the Opera House or the Uptown Theatre (as presenters),” Madden said, although he noted that IMG may also be presenting artists from its roster at the theater. IMG artists include violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who have performed in the valley as part of the summer Festival del Sole, an IMG production.

Madden said the response from locals so far has been enthusiastic and encouraging. “As we take time to explain that this is everyone’s theater, suddenly organizations — not just arts groups — are coming forward with really cool ideas,” he said.

Passage of a state revenue measure, Proposition 30, in November is expected to prevent deeper cuts to local schools, including Napa Valley College, and may allow education officials to restore some services.

Proposition 30 raises taxes to pay for education. As a result, Napa Valley College and the Napa Valley Unified School District will be left with flat funding instead of undergoing deeper cuts.

By January, after the governor’s budget is released, the school district and college will have a clearer picture of their budgets for 2013-14.

Napa Valley College plans to hire a permanent president by May. Ronald Kraft, who has more than 20 years of experience in higher education leadership, has served as interim president since August.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center’s new Herman Family Pavilion is estimated to officially open in the fall.

The three-story, 72,000-square-foot facility includes six operating suites, 20 private intensive care rooms, and a clinical pathology laboratory.

Private philanthropy is expected to contribute 20 to 30 percent of the funds to complete the surgical pavilion, which is estimated to cost $122 million.

American Canyon

Ongoing litigation, new development and transportation improvements are on the horizon for American Canyon in 2013.

The battle between the city and its card room, Napa Valley Casino, over a $2-per-visitor admission tax will continue, with pretrial motions in the criminal case scheduled to be heard later this month. Card room owners have repeatedly argued the tax, passed by American Canyon voters in 2010, is unconstitutional, despite court rulings otherwise. In October, the state Supreme Court declined to review the case.

American Canyon likely will see new development this year. Two proposed apartment projects, both roughly 200 units, could begin at the intersection of Silver Oak Drive and American Canyon Road, and on Oat Hill in the city’s northwest section. Also, construction should begin on a 70-unit affordable housing complex for seniors on Theresa Avenue at the foot of Oat Hill later this year.

After languishing for several years, the third phase of the Napa Junction shopping center development, which would include restaurants and more retail tenants east of Highway 29 at Napa Junction Road, may finally move forward.

As part of its transportation goals, American Canyon plans to update its traffic circulation plan, and work with Caltrans to make any possible improvements to Highway 29, such as traffic signal timing and landscaping improvements.

American Canyon and county officials are trying to put the Devlin Road extension on the fast-track. Once completed, Devlin Road could alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 29 between Green Island Road and the county airport.

American Canyon officials hope to have a draft environmental impact report for a long-desired town center project sometime this year.

Chantal Lovell, Michael Waterson, Isabelle Dills, Sasha Paulsen and Peter Jensen contributed to this story.

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Missouri City’s successes shine bright in 2012


Missouri City continued its march of excellence in 2012 with an array of successful fiscal, civic, business and public safety accomplishments that kept the “Show Me City” on the list of the state’s and the nation’s premier municipalities.

Safe streets, best budgets, thriving companies, dynamic diversity, pristine parks and A-plus amenities remain hallmarks of the City, and have an impact on its infrastructure projects and retail and commercial sectors.

Showcasing the richness of our cultural, educational and economic strengths, a groundbreaking Rice University study this year found Missouri City has surpassed Houston in diversity.

“Our diversity brings different ideas and traditions to the table, and we are united in the direction of our community’s future,” said City Manager Edward Broussard. “With 20 parks, two championship golf courses, first-class amenities and rich historical traditions, we encourage everyone to discover Missouri City.

Additionally, MONEY Magazine and CNNMoney named Missouri City one of 2012’s Top 10 Most Affordable Cities in the nation for homebuyers and “we are steadfast in our commitment to remain a premier location with scenic neighborhoods, low crime, top-rated schools and expanded quality recreational opportunities,” Broussard said.

And, when it comes to living healthy lifestyles; citizens are up to the challenge. Residents and staff formed a winning partnership this year to earn a second place honor in the Healthy at H-E-B Challenge, a statewide initiative aimed at getting Texans to become active and stay fit.

Another recreational accolade was earned by the award-winning Quail Valley Golf Course, which has hosted record rounds again this year. Avid Golfer ranked the El Dorado fairway as the No. 1 “Best Value Under $50”, and No. 2 among courses in the category of “Top-5 Intermediate-Priced • $36-$50”. And, the magazine ranked the La Quinta greens No. 2 among courses in the category of “Top-5 Value-Priced • $36-$50”.

QVGC is also now the third location for the First Tee of Greater Houston, a youth development program that teaches life lessons such as the importance of honesty, sportsmanship, perseverance, responsibility and judgment.

“We all know that Missouri City is a special place and these honors reinforce what those of us who live here know,” said Mayor Allen Owen. “As we move forward, our synergistic relationship with our families and business partners will continue to make Missouri City one of the best cities in America.”


Fiscal Fitness

Strong fiscal management earned the city a Double A rating for its general obligation bonds and certificates of obligation, a high rank based on sound budget policies and procedures that give the City a bright financial outlook for the future.

For more than 25 years, the City Budget and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report have been recognized annually by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for their detail on City services and programs and the City’s financial condition. And, for the second year in a row Missouri City has earned a “Gold Star” award for financial transparency and online reporting from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Maintaining fiscal excellence is a top priority for the City, with all departments focused on the effective and efficient management of financial resources.


Protecting the Public

Proactive public safety programs protect, educate and engage citizens, often providing a glimpse into the work of our first responders who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

In 2012, the Missouri City Police Department hosted a series of safety seminars, including a citywide crime prevention meeting, ensuring citizens are prepared to safeguard their families and property.

And, this year brought a significant first for the Fire Rescue Services as they hosted their inaugural annual open house. Hundreds visited Fire Station 1 and experienced how to handle a fire hose, learned about life-saving equipment, watched a vehicle extrication demonstration, toured the firehouse and practiced fire exit drills.

Another highlight was the graduation of the 26th Annual Missouri City Police and Fire Academy. This year’s class of 27 is now qualified to join the Police and Fire Auxiliary and Citizen’s Response Team after completing a free six-week training program that took them “behind-the-scenes”. The residents learned about traffic and criminal law, CPR, firearms, and the dangers associated with fighting fires and solving crimes.

The importance of Missouri City’s public safety investment in commercial areas also is demonstrated via the new Police Mini-Station on Texas Parkway. The station serves as a daily reminder to citizens that the City is dedicated to keeping them and their businesses safe.


Business is Booming

Continuing to build a sustainable business base is critical to future growth and development.

This year, Missouri City’s commitment to private-public partnerships was recognized with the prestigious 2012 Community Economic Development Award from the Texas Economic Development Council. The “Show Me City” won the distinction for its successful bid to attract Niagara Bottling Company, the second largest water bottling firm in the United States.

In making its decision, TEDC cited Missouri City’s “team effort” in partnering with the Greater Houston Partnership, the Fort Bend Economic Development Council, Fort Bend County, CenterPoint Energy Economic Development Group and Water Control and Improvement District No. 2 to interest Niagara in opening its doors in Lakeview Business Park, located near Fondren Road and Sam Houston Parkway.

The plant is expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2013. When complete, it will encompass more than 356,000 square feet, with water processing, bottle manufacturing, warehousing and a distribution facility.

A few miles away in the Beltway Crossing Complex on South Gessner Road, another major company is preparing to open its doors. Ben E. Keith Foods will complete the first phase of its 500,000-square-foot facility in the first quarter of 2013. When complete, the company, which was honored in 2012 by having Beltway Road renamed Ben E. Keith Way, will be the City’s largest employer.

Other new companies choosing to locate here during the past 12 months include Twin Star Bakery, Southwest Electronic Energy Corp., Fort Bend Brewing Company, Warren Alloy/Allied Fittings, Stream Realty and Bimbo Bakeries USA.

And, to create an ongoing dialogue with the business community, the City has launched Business Briefing Breakfasts. These monthly meetings focus on economic growth and development and are hosted in the City Centre at Quail Valley. For more information on the breakfasts, call 281.403.8530.


Infrastructure Improvements

Infrastructure improvements were a priority citywide. A major accomplishment was the official opening of the City’s new $50 million Regional Water Treatment Plant, the largest capital improvement project ever undertaken by the “Show Me City”. The project was the result of an unprecedented level of cooperation among 40 government and private sector groups.

The facility, which has the capacity to store 100 million gallons of water, was built to meet regulations set by the Fort Bend Subsidence District, which mandates that groundwater withdrawals must be no more than 70 percent of total water demand by Jan. 1, 2014. By January of 2025, withdrawals must be reduced to no more than 40 percent of water demand.

During a grand opening ceremony for the plant in August, partners raised their glasses—filled with water processed at the facility. Plant engineers say the quality of the refined water should exceed that of the groundwater residents currently drink with 33 types of tests conducted each day to ensure the water is safe to use. And, in recognition of its excellence, the RWTP won the Texas Public Works Association’s Project of the Year Award for “Environmental Projects at least $25 million but less than $75 million”.

Other infrastructure upgrades completed citywide include:

*Raised medians constructions on Highway 6 and Texas Parkway. The Texas Department of Transportation managed these mobility projects that improved safety for motorists and pedestrians. The projects included the installation of new traffic signals and six Dynamic Messages Signs along Highway 6, and the installation of new turn lanes along both roadways.

*Implementation of the $2.8 million Intelligent Transportation System to help synchronize traffic signals and manage traffic flow citywide.

*A showcase Missouri City monument wall was added to the entrance of the City Hall Complex, which has been revitalized with the addition of a new LED sign and landscaping. The monument wall is the latest of several new ones that now grace major thoroughfares helping to brand and beautify the area.

*Next year, Lexington Boulevard will be extended. Plans call for a decorative traffic signal at Texas Parkway, a four-lane boulevard roadway with sidewalks from Texas Parkway to Scanlin Road, as well as drainage structures. Fort Bend County has agreed to pay all costs of the $3.3 million project through the Fort Bend Mobility Bond program.

Other key infrastructure improvements include the reconstruction of El Dorado Bridge, the installment of flashing yellow arrows along major roadways and the construction of Fire Station #5, which is being fully funded by the Sienna Plantation Municipal Utility District. The station is expected to open in late 2013.

Another mobility milestone involves the METRO Park Ride stop located in the Fort Bend Town Center at Fort Bend Parkway and Highway 6. Ridership on the service is steadily increasing, providing convenient, stress-free commutes to and from the Texas Medical Center and Houston’s central business district for hundreds of residents.


Pristine Parks

City Council followed through on its commitment to citizens that construction of the City Centre at Quail Valley and the Recreation and Tennis Center would be completed this year.

Since Missouri City’s new first-class amenities opened their doors, they have received rave reviews.

As Fort Bend County’s premier events venue, the City Centre at Quail Valley, located at 2880 La Quinta Dr., has hosted dozens of festive occasions including weddings, business meetings, birthday parties, tournaments like the 2012 Fort Bend Chamber Challenge and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

To plan and schedule a function, individuals and businesses can call 281-403-8517.

The state-of-the-art Recreation and Tennis Center, located at 2701 Cypress Point Dr., continues to draw new members and has hosted tennis tournaments for local and regional organizations.

The Center, which was featured in the August edition of Athletic Business, has a Kid Zone, a full-size gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms, tennis courts, batting cages, the latest cardio and weight equipment, an outdoor walking trail and tennis clinics. To join, visit the City website: or call 281-403-8637.

Many distinctions set Missouri City apart from other municipalities, and the City’s pristine parks are among the area’s best.

The Edible Arbor Trail, which features groves of trees and shrubs that produce edible fruits and nuts, remains a favorite. It was recognized as an innovative project this year by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society and received an Honorable Mention for “On-the-Ground Projects” from the Houston-Galveston Area Council. The trail was also featured on Ch. 13’s Hometown Live Report.

Another parks project that has been popular is the expansion of Oyster Creek Trail. The 2.31 mile pathway, an outdoor haven for residents who enjoy a scenic hike, bike, walk or jog, underwent a revitalization that added a paved bike and pedestrian trail along Oyster Creek Bayou between Dulles Avenue and Cartwright Road.

Improvements made to the Cartwright Road Bridge extended Oyster Creek Trail under the bridge and connected it to the existing trail south of Cartwright Road.


Treasured Traditions

Annual traditions build lasting bonds citywide and this year, these successful events helped form a strong sense of civic pride:

* The 29th Annual Snowfest Festival drew more than 5,000 to the City Hall Complex and featured a tree-lighting ceremony, colorful fireworks, bicycle raffles, the world’s tallest snowman bounce house, a snow hill, a toy drive and Santa! And, the Snowfest Parade drew hundreds and featured colorful floats, local bands, community groups and trailers decorated in holiday themes.

*The July 4th Festival was a fantastic celebration in Buffalo Run Park full of fun and fireworks. Thousands of families gathered to see the sky light up with color at dusk. Children also enjoyed a moonwalk, a rock wall, and a mechanical bull.

*The Fourth Annual “Operation Thanksgiving—Stuff the Squad Car!” put the unity in community as “Show Me City” citizens, businesses and staff partnered to fill 15 police patrol cars with canned and nonperishable food items to assist area families in need. The Second Mile Mission Center, Bethel Ministry and the Powerhouse of Love Food Bank benefitted from this benevolent event.

*The Missouri City Juneteenth Celebration Foundation commemorated its 10th Anniversary with a focus on families and their core contributions to our communities.  At the Community Service Awards Gala tribute, retired NBA star Charlie Ward was the guest speaker. Other special celebrations were the Scholarship Golf Tournament, Family Fun Day in the Park and Night Out, Festival Under the Stars and the One Mile of Smiles Parade.

*And, neighborhoods across Missouri City held National Night Out block parties featuring good food, fellowship and fun on the 29th annual observance of the crime prevention initiative. NNO helps neighbors get to know each other and to partner with police officers, firefighters, City Council and staff to discuss and implement measures that help combat crime.


A Bright Future

In 2012, professionals in all departments honorably represented the City with pride and were recognized by their peers in the region, in the state and across the nation. They include:

*Police Officer of the Year Jessica Berry

*Firefighter of the Year Michael Jaster

*Recreation Superintendent Shane Mize, who won the 2012 National Recreation and Park Association Rising Professional Award

*Director of Municipal Court Services Cathy Haney, who is the Texas Court Clerks Association’s 2012 Gulf Coast Chapter Clerk of the Year

*Street Technician II Lyford “Nickey” Hayes, who was recognized as Operator of the Year—Heavy Equipment by the American Public Works Association

*City Secretary Maria Gonzalez, who became President of the Salt Grass Chapter of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association, Inc.

*The Communications Team won the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers’ Silver Star for Electronic Report, the Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors’ second place award for Best Use of Web, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors’ third place award for the video “Bob on Biz—LEED Certified Building”, and the group’s honorable mention award for the “Show Me Missouri City TV Website”.

*The Information Technology Team managed the installation of the Tyler Technologies Enterprise Resource Planning suite of software. It includes efficiency programs for accounting, payroll, human resources, document management, mapping, permits, licenses and code enforcement.

In 2013, Missouri City will continue to provide citizens with excellent programs and services. A committed City Council and award-winning staff will progressively move forward into the future, ensuring the “Show Me City’s” ongoing success.

Residents are encouraged to stay informed through the City’s websites: and, the “Show Me Missouri City” citizen newsletter, regular and annual homeowner association meetings, Missouri City television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on ATT U-verse) and 1690 AM.

Families and visitors are invited to have breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner at the City Centre and to maintain a focus on fitness at the Recreation and Tennis Center. And, to make those memorable moments in life even more special, citizens should plan to host their celebrations in one of the City Centre’s elegant rooms—the magnificent Magnolia Ballroom, the amazing Azalea Room or the beautiful Bluebonnet Grille.

And, golfers can always enjoy a great game at the renowned Quail Valley Golf Course.  For greens fees, visit or call 281.403.5910.

As the City partners with the community to start a New Year together; high-standards will continue to be set and met in the “Show Me City”.



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Natural Foodie: A Johnny Appleseed for the 21st century

Updated: 1:41 AM

Natural Foodie: A Johnny Appleseed for the 21st century

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

In this “get big or get out” world, sometimes small acts have great power.

Roger Doiron used this graphic and other outreach methods to lead a successful campaign to see a kitchen garden planted on the White House lawn.

Photo illustration courtesy of Roger Doiron

Jason and Jennifer Helvenston of Orlando, Fla., were ordered to remove this front-yard vegetable garden by local officials who said it was in violation of city code. Kitchen Gardeners International, based in Maine, launched an online campaign to help them, and within 48 hours the city announced that it was reversing its decision and that the Helvenstons would be allowed to keep their garden.

Photo courtesy of Jason Helvenston



SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY garden organizers can apply for a package of seeds, tools and cash with a value of $600. Applications are due Jan. 11. To apply visit


SARAH SCHINDLER, associate law professor at the University of Maine School of Law, authored a paper in the Tulane Law Review earlier this year examining how the growing locavore movement is coming into conflict with zoning ordinances. The paper examines how municipalities are responding to property owners who want to raise their own food in urban and suburban settings. It also looks at why these bans exist and the changing societal needs that make them outdated. It concludes with guidance for municipalities who want to modernize their zoning ordinances. Here she answers a few questions about her work:

Did your research provide any gauge of how widespread zoning restrictions are on residential agriculture, such as front yard gardens and backyard chickens?

I did not conduct an empirical study or 50 state survey. Rather, my research assistant and I looked for newspaper articles that discussed municipalities where there was some conflict or debate about the existing or newly proposed urban agriculture ordinances and went from there. I also looked to some of the standard land use “thought leader” cities to see what they were doing, as I have found that oftentimes something that starts as a “wacky” or progressive ordinance in a place like San Francisco or Portland, Oregon, can wind up spreading to other parts of the country after a few years.

Is this more of an issue in certain types of communities or certain parts of the country? Or is it an issue throughout the nation?

My research suggested that these ordinances exist throughout the country. And it is not just in the standard progressive municipalities that citizens are taking a stand against these urban agriculture bans and petitioning their local elected officials to overturn them. It’s fairly widespread; more and more people seem to be seeking to incorporate locavorism into their lives.


Did your research reveal any trends in residential agricultural zoning? For instance, are bans on the increase, decrease or holding steady?

Again, it is hard to say because I didn’t do a survey of ordinances. However, the bans do not seem to be universally in decline. As urban and suburban chicken-raising is becoming more popular, you actually see some concerned citizens proactively petitioning to get bans in place where none existed before. The other element we must consider here is that zoning isn’t the last word. MANY people in the U.S now live in common interest communities that are governed by private recorded covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CCRs. If these are stricter than zoning ordinances and not against public policy, they control. So arguably, even if the local zoning code says you can have a front yard garden, if a restrictive covenant in your neighborhood restricts front yards to neatly mowed lawns, you’re probably stuck with a lawn.

Could you sum up why you argue that bans on urban agriculture are out-of-date and fail to address modern challenges?

Although there are some valid reasons for banning urban agricultural uses, those justifications are often antiquated and outweighed by more current conceptions of appropriate land use. Zoning was created as a land use control technique whose purpose was to protect residential uses, and particularly single family homes, from other uses, like industrial and agricultural uses, that were viewed as incompatible and potentially harmful.

But our views of what is harmful and what is beneficial have changed over time. I would suggest that the harms associated with industrial agricultural production and lack of access to locally-produced food — food insecurity, food deserts, obesity tied to processed foods, monoculture-induced catastrophes, harm to animals, and greenhouse gas emissions — are more harmful than the risks associated with urban agriculture. And these harms could all be alleviated, at least in part, through urban agriculture. Further, municipalities have begun to recognize that traditional zoning techniques were a direct cause of sprawl and unsustainable development in the U.S.

Thus, many localities are moving away from those traditional zoning methods and toward the creation of mixed-use zones, which allow uses that were previously viewed as incompatible to locate along side one another.

I see the removal of urban agriculture bans as part of a broader trend in land use, where municipalities are moving away from strict, centralized legal authority and toward deregulation, or at least toward more inclusive views of which segments of society zoning should seek to protect.



Scarborough resident Roger Doiron understands this principle well.

Doiron, who is the founder and head of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International, encourages the simple act of planting a vegetable garden in your backyard, front yard or window box.

Both a front yard and backyard gardener himself, Doiron said he does it because, “I might not be able to save the planet, but I might be able to save tonight’s dinner.”

Doiron started the nonprofit in 2003 after working in Europe for an environmental group, where he said the work was critical but not very tangible. To him, gardening offers a hands-on way to improve the health of the planet and the health of his family.

Kitchen Gardeners International became more of a full-time endeavor for Doiron in 2008, when he landed a Kellogg Food Community fellowship. This also marked the year Kitchen Gardeners International launched its successful White House Kitchen Garden campaign.

The push to encourage the next president to plant a vegetable garden at the White House gained traction when Kitchen Gardeners International’s proposal for the idea garnered the most support on the Better World Campaign’s On Day One contest. The competition encouraged people to submit ideas that the incoming president could implement upon taking office.

First Lady Michelle Obama ended up embracing this initiative and planting a garden that supplies vegetables and fruits to the First Family, guests at official functions and a soup kitchen. The popular garden currently has its own tours, is the subject of the First Lady’s book “American Grown,” and is part of her wider effort to promote healthy eating.

Prior to the White House Garden campaign, Kitchen Gardeners International had fewer than 5,000 members. But by the time the garden was planted — and after the organization was mentioned by major news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — it had amassed 20,000 members. Today, the nonprofit — with a budget of less than $100,000 — has a global reach of almost 27,000 people.

Once again the nonprofit is in the news. This time the coverage comes as a result of its work to help marshal support for front yard gardeners who run afoul of local zoning ordinances that prohibit landscaping that deviates from manicured lawns and shrubbery.

Kitchen Gardeners International became involved in the fight over front yard gardens in the summer of 2011. Doiron, like many gardeners around the country, was following the case of Julie Bass. At the time, Bass was a resident of Oak Park, Michigan, and was being threatened with jail time if she didn’t remove the raised beds in her front yard.

Doiron alerted the organization’s network and generated emails and calls in support of Bass and her garden. Since then, Kitchen Gardeners International has rallied support for front yard gardeners in Memphis, Orlando and Quebec. In all the cases Kitchen Gardeners International has worked on, the municipalities have backed down from taking action against the front yard gardeners.

Doiron said the Orlando case was resolved much more quickly than the others. He attributes this to the fact that Kitchen Gardeners International was “able to call out the mayor in a very public way because the mayor had launched a communications platform of Orlando as a green city and a garden city. We said it’s important that you walk the talk.”

This public chastising apparently struck a cord, because as Doiron said “it was really a matter of 48 hours from when we hit send (on an alert email to members) to when the director of sustainability for Orlando got out in front of some TV cameras saying ‘We’re not going to shut this garden down.”‘

Doiron doesn’t see the fight over front yard gardens going away anytime soon, as individual communities continue to grapple with the conflict between traditionalist neighbors and the desires of more sustainably minded residents.

“We have to rethink the suburban and urban aesthetics and consider the possibility that what might have worked for the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is not appropriate for the world we’re currently living in,” Doiron said.

In addition to fighting for the rights of gardeners, Doiron’s organization is also working to help others create more gardens. Thanks to series of donations, Kitchen Gardeners International is offering 50 Sow It Forward grants worth $600 each to schools, community gardens, food pantries and other community groups wanting to start or maintain gardens.

“I’m really excited we’re at this point where we can become an enabler of kitchen gardens,” Doiron said. “We have a lot of amazing applications coming through, mostly from the U.S. and some from abroad.”

The grants include seeds from the Ark Institute, supplies from Gardeners Supply Co., gardening books from Storey Publishing, online garden planning tools from and $300 in cash from the Johnson Ohana Charitable Trust.

Application must be submittedby Jan. 11.

While a single garden — whether in a front yard or behind a school — is a small act and may not seem like a big deal, Doiron is confident it has the potential to create big change.

“There’s a cumulative effect if we all do some little things,” Doiron said. “It adds up to something quite substantial.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamilaPhoto courtesy of Jason Helvenston


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City seeking input for Pavilion Shore Park

Novi wants community help in recognizing the history of Pavilion Shore Park, including input on design ideas for creating a historical marker at the park that sits on the Novi side of Walled Lake.

City officials believe the park, at Old Novi and 13 Mile roads, has great historical significance for the surrounding community and they want to honor it.

According to Novi City Manager Clay Pearson, there will be an open house meeting in the next month for residents interested in learning more and giving their ideas.

Last year the city sought help with renaming it from Landings Property to Pavilion Shore Park, one of nearly 100 suggestions provided by citizens as part of a community-wide naming effort.

Pavilion Shore Park’s name came at the recommendation of a local man, Bob Niemi, who said it ties into the rich history from the 1920s through the 1950s, when the area gained regional and national prominence for summer recreation, dancing and band performances.

Novi officials said over the years the land encompassed by the park has experienced many significant events, from pre-settlement use by Native Americans to a casino dance hall pavilion, lake recreational opportunities and an amusement park.

Capturing this diverse history is the goal, and getting different ideas from citizens will be crucial.

“Really, what we’re looking for is some guidance,” Pearson said.

Possible icons

At the city council meeting Dec. 17, consultant Hamilton Anderson and Associates, as part of its park design process, suggested two possible historical icons for use at the park’s entryway.

The first concept consists of a 30-foot lattice-type structure inspired by the steel trellis structures of the amusement park. One of the concerns with the design was that it might dominate the landscape and give the modern implication of a smaller version of a communication or cell phone tower. The estimated cost of this option is $19,000, which is included in Phase 1 of the Conceptual Phasing Estimate Site Improvement.

The second concept put a stronger emphasis on the content of the historical marker, while utilizing subtle design elements which relate to the site history (such as keeping the trellis design on a smaller scale). This concept shifts the marker to the north side of the walkway so park users can look over the property as they read about it and its former uses.

This marker would be divided into four primary content areas: the Native Americans, the Pavilion, the Waterfront and the Amusement Park. Each area would be represented with interpretive panels that would have pictures and text related to each area.

Council was in general agreement that option two is best because it’s more subtle and suitable for a property of that size. The Historic Commission had a similar opinion.

“Less is better,” Mayor Bob Gatt said, reiterating other council members.

They all agreed more discussion is needed. Mayor Pro Tem David Staudt said it was his desire to see the city seek out help from the true pioneers of the community and get their input before anything is done.

Park project

The initial development of Pavilion Shore Park is planned to include a stone waterfront and pier on the lake, biking and walking paths intersecting the park, interpretive gardens and landscaping, a picnic lawn and a parking area.

The project is largely funded by a 2010 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant for $437,500. According to city officials, a funding match of 30 percent, or $187,500, was required from Novi, while $50,000 of the match was funded by the Novi Parks Foundation. (248) 437-2011, ext. 255

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Rejuvenating your garden – some tips for good soil

Rejuvenating your garden – some tips for good soil

02/01/2013 , 3:27 PM by ABC NENW

A few weeks back David Maher was giving some tips on how to rejuevnate the soil in your garden. He tells us that sometimes soil after a while becomes hydrophobic and loses its ability to absorb water.

The following is David’s suggestion to combat that problem, or just give your garden a bit of a lift.

1. Scuff soil – break up the surface with pitch fork or

2. Apply gypsum and leave for 2-3 weeks and keep garden moist.

3. Fertilise the soil – blood and bone and potash will do just fine – keep well watered

 4. Mulch the bed, but not too close to the base of plants

 Happy gardening 


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Tim’s Tips: Make a resolution to garden better

We have begun another year. May the new year be better for all of us than 2012 was. So, if 2012 was a great year for you, then you will have another great year!

A new year usually means making resolutions on how you will make your life better. How about this year’s resolution being that you will become a better gardener? Let me give you a few ideas.

Resolve that you will make sure that you check the pH of your soil. If the pH is low, some lime will correct the problem and in return, your plants will grow their best. This applies to your vegetable gardens, lawn and flowerbeds and, in some cases, the planters that you have in your yard.

Check the quality of your soil. For oh-so-many years, I have seen customers who have problems growing their lawns.They have re-seeded, fertilized and limed, and yet the lawn still does not do as well as they expected.

When this happens, the problem is generally with the soil. It may be that there is only two inches of topsoil or the quality of the existing topsoil may be poor. The answer is to fix the soil.

For a good lawn you need at least six inches of good topsoil. This may entail digging up the lawn and adding new soil, or mixing it in to the existing soil. Is this a lot of work? Of course it is! If you don’t repair the soil, then you are going to be trying the patch method for years to come. Repairing the soil may also means improving the soil in your gardens and planters too. If the plants are growing poorly in your gardens or containers, it may be time to fix the soil.

For years, I have used the line that plants are a lot like people: They both like to eat!

Make a resolution to keep your plants fertilized this coming season. Each year, many customers come in and inquire as to why their window boxes, hanging baskets, perennials, vegetable garden, etc. are “not growing that well.” I will ask them all the same question: how often they fertilize their plants.

Many times the customer will reply, “Well, I water the plants,” or they may answer, “I fertilized the plants when I planted them.” No matter what type of fertilizer you use, the plant will use that fertilizer up and you will have to replace it if you want the plants to grow properly. If you follow the directions on the package, you will apply the fertilizer at the proper interval and your plants will then grow the way you want.

These are just a few things you can resolve to do in 2013 to make your gardens a better place for your plants to grow. Remember, spring is just around the corner. It must be because we have received the 2013 seed packets in our store.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.

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January gardening tips

APM Monaco SA

Find the Perfect Christmas Jewellery Gift

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Living Art: The Rise Of The Vertical Gardens

vine line

A growing number of small urban spaces are creating landscaped gardens that stretch beyond floor pots, with greenery growing upwards along walls and fences.

This new trend toward ‘vertical gardens’ is renewing apartments, offices and restaurants inviting greenery to flourish in small spaces.

Vertical gardens, also referred as ‘eco walls’ or ‘green walls’, are bringing practical and aesthetic value to both domestic and commercial spaces. Along with their environmental benefits, plants and greenery can also improve air quality and promote health and wellness.

This sustainable form of architecture also supports the biophilia hypothesis, a suggestion that there is an innate connection between human beings and living systems.

According to Susan McCoy of the U.S. based trend-spotting Garden Media Group, this new generation of gardeners is composed of environmentally-conscious Gen X and Gen Y types who believe the power of plants and regard plants is “no longer a luxury, but a necessity for our lives.”

Plants can be arranged on the side of a building, on fences and walls both internally and externally. When placed strategically, vertical gardens make for great design features and are considered alternatives for wall art.

Walls and fences should be structurally strong to grow a vertical garden as they’re generally designed to be permanent structures. It is advised that professionals versed in engineering, design, building regulations, draining and horticulture be the ones to install them.

vine line

In terms of design, some organisations offer vegetated panels that can be attached or plants that can be placed in decorative containers in a grid-inspired format along the wall. Choosing vegetation for garden installation should be  based on location and maintenance requirements.

For ease of maintenance, it is advisable to have a built-in irrigation system and a good drainage system nearby. Vertical gardens generally require self-watering irrigation systems, as manual hosing will result in water simply running into the ground. Hydroponic watering systems can also be installed to keep plants fed and fresh.

Installing a vertical garden inside is a great way to connect an interior space with nature. Interior greenery requires a little more attention as adequate lighting and ventilation may need to be installed. The wall and surrounding areas should also be waterproofed and actively kept dry.

Commercially, plants are being invited into offices, restaurants and high-end hotels.

“With most large offices having few windows and little natural light, insightful office managers often use plants to bring freshness and colour to the office environment, but the benefits go further than this.  Research strongly suggests that plants can result in improved well-being among staff, increased productivity and improved air quality,” said UK psychologist Dr Craig Knight.

vine line

Covering a building wall can keep the wall insulated, alleviate pollution and provides a shield to the building materials from elements like the sun.

In New York, architect Laurence Tamaccio is proposing to cover the West Side Highway – the divider between Riverside Park South and the Hudson River – with a leafy vertical ivy garden and aligning waterfalls. He believes his Vine Line proposal will become a source of pride for the entire community and revamp the area aesthetically.

Near Milan, meanwhile, a shopping centre is claiming to have the biggest vertical garden in the world, with 1,263 square metres adorned with a total of 44,000 plants. It was designed by architect Francesco Bollani who said “it took us a year to grow the plants in a greenhouse and 90 days to build the facade.”

The previous record was held by a Madrid garden covering 844 square metres.

By Angela Fedele

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Back to the future

As the Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its centenary in 2013, award-winning designer Roger Platts looks at how gardening has changed in the last 100 years – and how much has remained the same

The world’s top garden designers will be celebrating 100 years of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 with a mixture of old and new, demonstrating the glories of the past and the gardens of the future.

Award-winning Chelsea stalwart Roger Platts, who is designing the MG show garden, Windows Through Time, is aiming to capture the design trends and themes of RHS Chelsea Flower Shows past and present, showing how British garden design has evolved while reflecting many recurring themes that have stood the test of time.

“I believe that the three major reasons driving the development in garden design are ever-changing architecture, climate change and lifestyle changes,” says Platts.

“Extremes of weather have tended to kill off some new trends in planting in recent years. It is not long since we were being encouraged to plant drought-tolerant varieties, only to find them frosted or rotted in cold, wet winters.

“It only takes a couple of years of extreme weather in close succession to remove gardeners’ confidence in certain plants.

“I have always enjoyed growing a wide range of silver-leaved plants but living on heavy soil and having wetter weather, I am reluctant to risk some of these.

“For the average gardener it will always be best to grow plants tolerant of a wide range of conditions. For the enthusiast they will always be trying to push the boundaries.”

Low maintenance and the need for neatness will always be a factor in gardens for the future, he predicts, especially in urban environments.

“The terms ‘disease free’ and ‘easy to grow’ and ‘uncomplicated’ is as much as I can predict for future gardens. It is impossible to know what other factors will dictate how gardens will look in the future.”

So, how much have our gardens changed in the last century?

:: Plant pots – in 1913 pots would have been made from clay. This then developed to plastic with a recent trend towards biodegradable materials.

:: Glasshouses – then heating and propagation for glasshouses and growing frames relied on solid fuel and manure. Nowadays, electricity and bio fuels are used.

:: Fertilisers – 100 years ago most fertiliser was organic. Over the years chemicals were developed for use in fertilising. There is now a trend to returning to organic fertilisers.

:: Garden construction materials – then natural timber, stone, clay and iron and aggregates were mainly used. These would generally have been locally sourced. In 2013 we use a very similar range of materials with a few additions, such as plastics, concrete, stainless steel (invented in 1913) and imported materials such as Indian sandstone.

:: Plants – varieties we grew in 1913 are similar to what we grow now but with a wider range today due to sophisticated plant breeding and selection methods. A century ago most were raised in the ground after propagation, being ‘lined out’ in the field as young plants, hence the term ‘liners’, which is still used in the nursery trade for young plants prior to final potting

:: Lawn mowers – were in their infancy 100 years ago. Technology has resulted in garden machinery becoming more widely affordable. The basic principles of cutting grass using a cylinder mower have changed little over the century. Plastics, battery-powered strimmers and the rotary mower mean that small areas of grass are easier to maintain nowadays. Robotic mowers may be the way forward for lazy gardeners.

:: Today we grow our own food at home more as a hobby than a necessity, whereas 100 years ago before supermarkets, refrigerators and fast transport, food was grown as a basic need.

Platts’s 2013 Chelsea garden will embrace both new and traditional garden features, from modern sculpture to planting, threaded with historical shrubs popular in the 1900s.

His flair for planting will be apparent throughout the garden, from wild grasses and meadow flowers to cottage roses and nodding foxgloves.

Platts concludes: “The classic look we know today has been around for some time and I think and hope that it will be with us for many years to come.”

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