City looks at regulating community gardens

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Matthew Keefauver shows members of the Cortez Community Garden how to use certain gardening tools when planting crops. Enlargephoto

michael maresh/cortez journal

Matthew Keefauver shows members of the Cortez Community Garden how to use certain gardening tools when planting crops.

The Cortez City Council on Aug. 28 approved a first reading of a proposal that would regulate community gardens and urban farms within the city limits.

Part of the proposal dealt with the definitions of community gardens, agriculture, home gardens, greenhouses, hoop houses, cold frames and urban farms.

In May, the council approved a resolution to allow the temporary operation of a community garden at 1202 E. Empire St. with three conditions.

The conditions included that the land would be used for 12 months from when council approved the resolution, and that the Planning and Zoning Commission would research how to regulate various community gardens and come back to council before the 12-month lease expired.

Kirstin Sackett, director of planning, said the commission first reviewed the community garden proposal on Dec. 6, 2011, and also held discussions on possible policies and regulations on March 6, April 3, June 19 and July 17.

According to ordinance 1167 Series 2012 on community garden and urban farm regulations, community gardens were not fully anticipated when the current land use code was created and adopted, and that the council and commission recognize the value of promoting urban agriculture within the city to help residents improve the quality of life in their communities while increasing access to fresh foods and enhancing the aesthetics and security of neighborhoods.

The resolution also stated the community gardens would create opportunities for recreation and community building and that the commission determined that it was in the best interests of the city to update the land use code to reflect the positive attributes of urban agriculture and to provide minimal regulations to community gardens.

Council member and avid gardener Matthew Keefauver said communities have a need for gardens of this type for numerous reasons.

“They provide fresh and healthy foods for those who might not be able to afford otherwise,” he said. “It’s really a good thing. Anytime anyone can grow their own food it is a positive.”

Council members wanted to know if there were any provisions about chickens being allowed, and Sackett said while there is nothing in the ordinance about chickens. The city plans to get feedback from the public at its next block party about possibly allowing chickens on gardens in the future.

City Manager Shane Hale said there are a lot of benefits to telling young children where the food was grown, mentioning sometimes this is the impetus to convince them to eat the vegetables.

Keefauver concurred, saying it is really important for young children to know what is happening within gardens.

Mayor Dan Porter said he did not feel anything needed to be changed with community gardens.

Council member Ty Keel wanted to know if there was any way to check to see what the residents are thinking.

Hale said the recommendation was to put it out there to see how it goes.

The resolution would still need a public hearing for it to be moved, seconded and adopted, all which could happen at its next meeting on Sept. 11.