Urban-farming supporters decry proposed Tucson code changes

2014-06-11T00:00:00Z 2014-06-11T09:50:20Z Urban-farming supporters decry proposed Tucson code changesBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucsonans weighed in once again on the city’s plans to update what’s allowed and what’s forbidden when it comes to planting gardens or raising chickens within city limits.

More than 100 residents packed a west-side YWCA Tuesday night for the city’s second public hearing on its proposed changes to urban agriculture zoning regulations.

Many of the changes the city is suggesting affect practices Tucsonans have engaged in for years, such as growing vegetables in their backyards or keeping miniature goats.

Almost all of those who attended said they resent the suggested changes and feel they interfere with cherished Tucson traditions of self-reliance.

But city officials said the current code was either silent, too vague or overly restrictive on many of these issues and left urban farmers and their neighbors in limbo as to what a person could or couldn’t do with their property.

Adam Smith, principal planner in the city’s Planning and Development Services Department, said the new rules would set a standard for urban agriculture while preserving the quality of life in the neighborhoods.

With skeptical eyes upon him, Smith proceeded to lay out the reasons behind the most controversial proposals, and fielded questions and comments.

SMALL ANIMALS

The most hotly contentious part of the proposal has been the limit on how many animals a person can keep, Smith said.

Changes: The city proposes limiting a home to having three small farm animals, such as miniature goats, rabbits, and other small animals, and eight chickens. Current rules allow up to 24 chickens and don’t specify the number of other animals. There are some exemptions for properties 20,000 square feet and over.

Response: Many residents complained the low numbers would make it impossible for anyone to raise enough meat to feed a family. They said that would force people to turn to “big agriculture” companies for their meat, which many in attendance said they couldn’t trust with their food supply.

URBAN FARMS

Changes: New rules expand the number of places in the city where folks can set up an urban farm, as long as they get a permit. It would also allow composting, gardens and greenhouses, with limits on dust, odors and nuisances.

Response: Most felt the rules did more to hamper urban farming than enhance it. Doug Barreto said the new rules would dictate how Tucsonans feed themselves.

“We need to be responsible for growing our own food that’s not GMO contaminated,” Barreto said. “How can we do that with these limits?” Barreto said he didn’t want to live in a place where city officials micromanage a person’s garden.

FARMERS MARKETS

Changes: Would be limited to mostly selling food and have strict limits on selling crafts and other items.

Also, if the farmers market is held in a residential area, the market must obtain a permit, not run longer than six hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., nor operate more than two days a week.

Response: South-side resident Claudio Rodriguez said the city is taking away a part of Tucson life. He said the city shouldn’t limit the time people can sell vegetables to their neighbors when it allows liquor stores to operate almost all day.

A REAL PROBLEM?

The opposition Tuesday led Councilman Steve Kozachik to question if the city is “trying to fix something that’s not broken. “

City staff will present a revised proposal in August based on public comments.

Contact Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com

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

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