City may ditch proposed rules on urban agriculture

2014-07-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T09:39:59Z City may ditch proposed rules on urban agricultureBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Proposed limits on how many chickens and goats city residents can keep in their backyards may be dumped before they’re ever adopted.

The same goes for new rules governing when you can sell your homegrown fruits and vegetables to your neighbors.

Tucson City Council members are having second thoughts about even bringing the changes to a public vote in the wake of outraged opposition from urban farmers who see their rights being impinged.

City staff started work on the rule changes to create a uniform standard for urban farming while preserving the quality of life for neighboring residents.

But urban farmers balked at the changes, charging the proposed rules would hinder people’s ability to grow their own food.

The chorus of opposition has made some council members wonder if the city is looking for solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

“The whole point of putting in urban agriculture is to embrace urban agriculture rather than hamstring it,” said Councilman Paul Cunningham. “The last thing we want to do is expand the bureaucracy and create government regulation that is unneeded.”

Cunningham said urban farming has been an integral part of Tucson life and hasn’t been a problem.

“I had never received a call from people complaining about their neighbor’s garden or chickens,” he said. “Now we are creating all these regulations and creating more work for ourselves. It’s the typical situation where the bureaucracy gets in its own way.”

Over-regulation also concerns Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

“We’ve got a lot of rules on the books to protect the public and neighbors from excessive noise to smell,” Uhlich said. “Those concerns that come up can be addressed to a great extent by existing rules.”

Uhlich said she’s heard from more people concerned that their freedom to engage in urban agriculture will be curtailed by the new rules.

The lack of complaints against unsightly gardens and unkempt chicken coops indicates Tucsonans can farm responsibly without added regulations, she said.

“If problems come up, then it would make more sense to expand on our code,” Uhlich said. “But we should let people live and let live and not assume trouble until it comes to pass.”

Uhlich would like to see an agenda item on this issue within the next few meetings so the council can see if code changes are necessary.

At least one council member has made up his mind about the matter.

“I just have the sense that we’re putting the community through a huge fire drill trying to solve a problem that really doesn’t exist in anybody’s mind,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik. “It makes sense to just drop the exercise and move onto issues that really do need to be addressed.”

While Kozachik is ready to dump the project, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild prefers the council lets the process play out.

Rothschild, whose two-year plan included updates to the urban agriculture rules, said the council might have to take a piecemeal approach with changes.

With most of the outcry centered on restrictions to how many small animals a person can raise, Rothschild said the city should start with less controversial changes and work from there.

“We should take it a piece at a time as the recommendations come to us,” he said.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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