Pittsburgh's urban agriculture community showed up in full-force yesterday at a public hearing to address proposed zoning that could impact city gardeners and keepers of bees and chickens. After hearing several hours of comments, the commission suggested the city planning
department work with the local urban agriculture organizations to
develop a set of ordinances that suit for everyone's best interests.
The City's proposed urban agriculture ordinance is a "good first step for the city to take on urban agriculture issues in a real, formal way," says Julie Pezzino with Grow Pittsburgh. But there are a number of aspects of the ordinance that can be improved upon to really encourage healthy local food systems and reuse of vacant land, say leaders in the local food community, including Burgh Bees, the East End Food Co-op, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.
Concerns addressed permit fees in excess of $300, which could serve as a barrier to residents, especially in low-income, historically disadvantaged areas where many vacant lots are already thriving as urban gardens.
The community also expressed concern about the proposed square footage required to keep bees and chickens. Properties smaller than 2,500 square feet would be prohibited from housing hives, and on top of that, the hives would have to be set back 15 feet from adjacent property lines. This would eliminate about half the lots in Pittsburgh from keeping bees, and would also deem most individual city vacant lots ineligible to have bees, including two existing Burgh Bees demonstration apiaries. And the 3,000 square foot rule for keeping chickens, as well as the prohibition of roosters, would deem illegal many well-maintained chicken operations in the city and limit the self-sustainability of a flock.
Pittsburgh's urban agriculture community asked the city planners to consider lowering or eliminating fees, to consider enacting provisions that focus on bees' flight path rather than hive placement, and to lower the square footage for keeping bees and chickens. The local food community requested a month to craft alternative language for these areas, after which, they would like to return to the commission with recommendations.
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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julie Pezzino, Grow Pittsburgh
Photograph copyright Brian Cohen