Small Steps in Push to Change Garden Rules

Tight restrictions on community gardens in Raleigh’s zoning code could change as a number of groups push City Council members to loosen them.

Community gardens — in this case gardens that take up an entire plot of land — currently require a special permit and are not allowed in some areas. Advocates want City Councilors to change the regulations in the new Unified Development Ordinance, the complete rewrite of the city zoning code currently before Council.

Councilors in the Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday approved loosening the regulations in the R10 zoning districts, one of the denser residential districts in the city, which allows up to 10 units per acre. The change would eliminate the need for community garden operators to pay a $200 permit fee and go through a special-use permit hearing.

Gardens taking up an entire property would still need a permit, but it could be approved by city staff.

The full City Council will discuss the change at its next meeting in January.

According to Mitch Silver, Raleigh’s chief planning and development officer, his department is supportive of citywide urban gardening, but they want to be cautious about where and how it is implemented.

“The city supports community agriculture and urban gardening and is seeking to expand it,” he said. “It’s a matter of where and at what intensity.”

“The main priority is to change R10 from special use to limited,” said Geraldo Serrano, founder of Sixth Sun, a nonprofit working to empower neighborhoods in South and Southeast Raleigh that revitalizes empty lots into productive gardens.

Ajouba Joy, a south Raleigh resident, stressed the area’s need for healthy food choices and said the neighborhood stores only carry four items, “Alcohol, sugar, salt and tobacco.”

Serrano said that a half-acre lot in South Raleigh can produce at least 4,000 pounds of vegetables for a community.

While there was not a complete resolution on the issues, advocates were positive about the outcome.

Urban Ag Program Manager at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Lara Khalil tweeted, “#RaleighUrbanAg v. Council: small steps, progress nonetheless. Let's keep mving fwd.”

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