Sweetwater Members and Supporters: Call to Action

February 16, 2011 Update:  Breaking News!

We had a great hearing in front of the Hearing Officer regarding our application for re-zoning. To recap, Sweetwater was issued a code violation based on the current zoning of the property of our main farm on Comanche Ave. It is currently zoned residential which does not allow for agricultural activities. After much research, it appeared the best way to resolve the violation was to rezone the property as a Planned Development, which would allow not only our agricultural activities, but also will allow our Sunday Market and Music Series, our educational activities as well as the residence currently on the property.

The Hearing Officer heard testimony from our attorney, Pamela Jo Hatley, as well as our professional witnesses, a land planner and traffic engineer. I also gave testimony. That was followed by testimony from two Hillsborough County Departments, the Planning Commission and Planning and Growth Management. Both departments were supportive of our application. That is huge! There was a good crowd of Sweetwater Supporters cheering us on, and no opposition, which is also pretty big. This marked the close of the “record creation” phase. No more letters, petitions, or professional testimony – that is it! The hearing officer will take all of the information and generate a report with a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.

In three weeks we should receive the Hearing Officer’s report, which we expect to recommend for approval. The application then goes to the Board of County Commissioners. They will make the final decision on April 12. So mark your calendars as this will be an even more important meeting as this will be the final decision.

We want to give everyone who helped a BIG THANK YOU!!! For all the letters, emails, petitions and presence, THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!!

We will send you more details about the April 12 meeting as we get closer to the date. We are in the home stretch.

Warmest regards,


(From January 2011)…

Dear Sweetwater Members and Supporters,

We have reached an important milestone in Sweetwater’s evolution as one of the premier not-for-profit organizations in the Tampa Bay Community.  We have submitted a re-zoning application to Hillsborough County.  There will be a very important hearing before a land use hearing officer on February 15, 2011, and a final hearing before the Board of County Commissioners on April 12, 2011.


Back in 1987, I purchased this property and soon after applied for and received an Agricultural Exemption for my freshly started farming activities on the property.  In early 2010, we were issued a code violation and learned that under the current zoning, we are not allowed to farm at this location.  Working with the County, we determined that the best solution would be to apply for a re-zoning.

There has never been anything more important in our history as an organization than obtaining this re-zoning.  Without this rezoning, Sweetwater may no longer be permitted to operate at our current location.  Thus, we are asking for your support in responding/commenting to the County regarding the pending hearing.  A strong show of support is absolutely critical.

There are Several Ways You Can Help.

  1. The most valuable way you can help us is to take 5 minutes to write a letter of support that will be received by the County Commissioners and used to help make their decision.  These letters can be EMAILED or sent by mail, but must be received no later than February  13, 2011.  Your letter must list the application number RZ 10-1043 and be submitted it to the Land Use Hearing Officer at the addresses listed below:

    BOX 1110
    Tampa, FL 33601
    Phone: (813) 978-1480

    Or EMAIL to: Hearings@Hillsboroughcounty.org
    (Be sure to note our application number RZ 10-1043!)

  2. You can attend the hearing.  The following are the time and location of the hearing:

    PUBLIC HEARING DATE: February 15 2011
    TIME: 6:00 P.M.
    Board of County Commissioners Boardroom 2nd Floor, County Center
    601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Florida

In addition to writing a letter or attending the hearing, you can print out a petition supporting Sweetwater’s rezoning by clicking on this link and gather signatures for submission.

Petitions for your signature and blank petitions to take with you will also be available at the CSA sign in table in the main barn. Deadline for getting petitions back to us is January 28th.   Completed petitions can be dropped off with Andrea at the farm or sent by mail to:

Andrea Harms, Program Director
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
6942 W, Comanche Ave.
Tampa, FL 33634

What to Put in a Letter of Support

We have received positive comments from County Staff and want to build on this relationship.  Please use a positive tone and do not be antagonistic or strident in your communications.   This is very important.

In your own words describe how important Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is to the community.

That might include the following:

Community benefits, educational opportunities to local public and private schools,  local, sustainable agriculture that provides employment and positive environmental leadership, a treasure to the community, nothing else like this available to our community, something the community supports and our hopes are that Board of County Commission will support, and any other benefits you would like to express.

State what it is you are requesting the County to do:  Approve Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, Inc’s re-zoning application 10-1043.

Sign it and print your address.  You do not need to be a county resident to support us.  Showing that individuals from surrounding counties travel to Sweetwater Farm to spend money in Hillsborough County is very important.

Even though we would prefer that you write in your own words, it may make it easier for some of you to cut and paste from the following wording:

Dear Hearing Officer and Members of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners:

As a member/friend of Sweetwater Organic Community Farm,  I am writing to ask that you approve Sweetwater Farm’s re-zoning application.  School groups come to Sweetwater Farm to learn how food is grown; residents of Hillsborough County and surrounding areas come to Sweetwater Farm for fresh, organically grown vegetables and fruits; and the community gathers at Sweetwater Farm to enjoy nature and learn about healthy and sustainable nutrition and organic gardening.  Sweetwater Farm has provided leadership for sustainable agriculture, environmental education and healthy lifestyle in Hillsborough County for many years.  Sweetwater Farm provides jobs for our community and healthy recreational activities for our families. Please approve Sweetwater Farm’s rezoning application so that the farm can continue to be a wonderful community asset for Hillsborough County and its residents.

Thank you for your support.



Thank you all for everything you have done for Sweetwater.  Without you we would not exist.

With most sincere thanks and appreciation,


Rick Martinez
Executive Director/Founder
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

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