Hamilton to amend rules for neighborhood farming

May 30, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Posted in vegetables | Leave a comment
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Hamilton to amend rules for neighborhood farming

By Eric Schwartzberg

 
HAMILTON — A measure that promotes and encourages urban agriculture by allowing anyone to use city or private property to grow produce is expected to become a reality starting this summer.

New urban agriculture amendments will establish rules for local neighborhood farming and allow any Hamilton resident to take an underdeveloped or undeveloped city lot or private property and use it to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, nut trees or fruit trees.

The harvested bounty could then be used for their own consumption, to sell to others or donate to area food pantries, according to Alfred Hall, co-founder of Hamilton Urban Garden Systems, or HUGS.

Hall said the change is an important step to not only beautifying Hamilton, but helping it become “the greenest little city in America.”

“They’ve made a very important first step in a process that will eventually grow into a local regional food system, which will allow us to feed ourselves, develop community and create economic opportunity,” Hall said.

For example, someone who has multiple lots in the city and wants to erect 10-by-20-foot greenhouses on each one to grow flowers to sell will be able to do so, he said.

The legislation got its start earlier this year when city officials approached HUGS and asked for help with the ordinance, Hall said.

Recently approved by the city’s planning commission, the measure is scheduled to go to Hamilton City Council for approval next month.

Passing the ordinance is important because it relaxes restrictions on what can be done on a privately-owned lot and eliminates the need to go to the city for approval to establish a garden, Hall said.

“Every time someone wanted to do that, they would have to go and get approval,” he said. “Now, that will be taken care of. The approval is a pre-approval. You don’t have to go.

“Instead of 17 people going 17 different times, 17 people can now just go and garden.”

The amendments would allow temporary farmers market stands to be established on each plot between May 1 through Sept. 30 and limit hours of operation to sunrise through sunset, according to a planning commission report approved May 20.

Other basic restrictions include staying 10 feet back from the front of the property and five feet from the side and back of the property. Outbuildings, such as a greenhouse to extend a property’s growing season, may not exceed 200 square feet and cannot be more than 15 feet high.

Raised beds, planter boxes or containers located in a primary or secondary front yard setback may not be taller than 30 inches at the tallest point above the surrounding grade and may not cover more than 20 percent of the total front yard area.

In addition, no single box may be larger than 8-foot long by 4-foot wide. All planter boxes and containers must be set back a minimum of 10 feet from any property line and five feet from side and rear property lines.

Encouraging urban agriculture fits with other “green” strategic initiatives that Hamilton has set in place, including establishing a farmers market on the plaza and reducing the city’s carbon footprint, according to Chris Lawson, assistant to the city manager.

“It comes down to producing local for individuals to grow their own food where they live to reduce that kind of footprint,” Lawson said. “Instead of driving to groceries where you don’t know exactly where the food comes from, you’re getting to grow it locally. It utilizes empty spaces more effectively and promotes a healthier lifestyle.”

Similarly, city officials recognize “the potential of urban farming to bring people together and increase neighborhood collaboration,” Lawson said.

Hall’s recommendation for anyone who wishes to use an undeveloped or underdeveloped private or city lot is to contact the city or property owner and develop a memorandum of understanding on how that lot will be developed and maintained.

 
http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/hamilton-to-amend-rules-for-neighborhood-farming/nX6Nd/

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