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News & Updates

Mayor Menino Announces Start of Community Meetings on Urban Agriculture in Boston

Jun 03, 2013

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced the release of draft urban agriculture zoning to support the growth of farming citywide and the start of a series of community meetings to review the recommendations. Article 89 will create clarity and predictability regarding food growing, fish farming, and hen and bee keeping in the city. It also expands locations for farmers markets and farm stands, and introduces a soil safety protocol. Eleven community meetings will be held in June and July to vet the draft recommendations before the final zoning is completed. A Twitter chat is also planned for those who cannot attend a meeting in person. [box] “Urban agriculture is an innovative way to improve city life,” Mayor Menino said. “Farmers make good neighbors and better our communities. Growing food in city limits means better access to healthy food, while growing a sense of neighborhood unity and greening our city.”[/box] In January 2012, Mayor Menino launched the Article 89 zoning process. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives held 17 public meetings with the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Rezoning Working Group made up of farming advocates, experts and interested citizens appointed by Mayor Menino in summer 2010 to advise and guide the rezoning initiative. Most agricultural activities are not allowed in Boston under current zoning code. By addressing a wide range of these activities, Article 89 will increase access to healthy food, promote community building, and help beautify neighborhoods. A copy of Article 89 is available for download on the Boston Redevelopment Authority website and here. Article 89 Summary Urban farms: from conventional, small-scale, ground-level ‘mom and pop’ non-profits to high-tech, innovative rooftop commercial farms. Article 89 will not impact community gardeners or backyard gardeners.
  • Ground-level urban farms up to 10,000 square feet and roof-level farms up to 5,000 square feet would be allowed in almost all parts of the city. Larger farms would require Comprehensive Farm Review (see below).
  •  Roof-level greenhouse farms would be allowed in institutional, industrial, and large scale commercial zoning districts, and require further review everywhere else.
Comprehensive Farm Review (CFR): Staff level review conducted by the BRA to ensure that farms are good neighbors. CFR will be required for ground-level farms larger than 10,000 SF and roof-level farms larger than 5,000 SF, with some exceptions for farms in industrial and institutional districts. The 45-day process requires abutters to be notified and farm site plans to be reviewed by the BRA. Soil Safety: Boston is a national leader in establishing a soil safety protocol for urban farms. Under the new zoning farmers would be required to place a barrier over existing soil, plant their crops in raised beds, and test the imported soil. Hens and Bees: Article 89 doesn’t change where hens and bees can be kept in the city, as already defined by the existing zoning code. Any changes regarding the keeping of hens and bees would be done on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. Article 89 defines the permissible size of beehives, coops, and the numbers of allowed hens and beehives, and other size and maintenance requirements, in zoning districts where hens and bees can already be kept. Farmers markets and farm stands: allowed anywhere retail is allowed by underlying zoning, public hearing required for all other locations. Hydroponics (soilless planting): possible in most zoning districts, including small scale facilities in residential subdistricts. Aquaculture (fish farming in tanks) and aquaponics (a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture): facilities up to 750 square feet will be allowed in most zoning districts, including residential districts. Composting: may occupy up to 5% of the lot area of a farm. Article 89 will be amended to reflect community feedback received during the neighborhood meeting process this summer. The final zoning adoption, slated for December 2013, will require BRA Board approval and Zoning Commission approval. Article 89 is a next step in growing urban agriculture in the city, a process that began in November 2010 when Mayor Menino launched the Urban Agriculture Initiative to pilot urban farming on two city owned parcels in Dorchester. In November 2011 the Boston Zoning Commission passed an amendment on the two parcels at 23-29 Tucker Street and 131 Glenway Street, which established an Urban Agriculture Overlay District within the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood District. This allowed the parcels to be used for the cultivation of plants, herbs, fruits, flowers, and vegetables and composting of materials produced on the site. The Tucker Street location is being leased to ReVision Urban Farm and the Glenway site is being leased to City Growers.  

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