City land use to grow to include urban farms

Gainesville residents will soon be able to engage in two types of urban farming and some will be able to potentially increase their chicken flocks under a revision to the city’s land use code.

The city commission approved on first reading Thursday changes to the land use ordinance that allows subsistence gardening and urban market farms under five acres across the city’s zoning designations.

The revised city code will define subsistence gardening as land used to grow fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and herbs for consumption or donation, but not for sale. Community gardens, accessory gardens and education gardens fall under the subsistence gardening category.

Urban market farms will be defined as cultivated areas where at least part of what’s grown is sold either directly to consumers or sold wholesale to retailers. Urban market farms that are less than 5 acres are allowed in all city zoning areas, but urban market farms larger than 5 acres must apply for a special use permit.

Current city code allows residents to keep up to 10 chickensall henswithin certain restrictions. Urban market farms that are a half acre may also keep up to 10 chickens, and can add two more chickens for each additional half acre.

The total number of chickens is capped at 24, and the farms must follow existing regulations on keeping fowl in residential areas.

The code revision is meant to apply to chickens, specifically hens, and not to other fowl, but as the revision is currently written, that may not be clear.

“Hen can be used generally to refer to a variety of female fowl,” Andrew Persons, Gainesville’s director of sustainable development, told the commission. “The definition of fowl in the city’s land development code includes ostriches and ducks and all sorts of other feathered friends. And obviously it would be a strange interpretation to say like female ostriches were OK because they are listed as fowl.”

The commission asked the city staff to more clearly specify chickens in the ordinance before it comes up for a second reading.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker also asked staff to add aquaculture and hydroponics to the ordinance to make sure it’s clear that those uses would also be allowed under the urban farming additions.

“I’ve been to quite a few of those [aquaculture] farms,” said Commissioner Reina Saco. “There’s a lot in the smallest space humanly possible, and it’s amazing.”

Under the code revision, urban market farms larger than 5 acres would have to follow other rules related to design, operations and maintenance, including providing hand washing facilities for employees or volunteers and managing both compost and trash on a weekly basis.

The code revision will likely have its second reading at the March 17 regular city commission meeting.

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