Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Legislation Provides Home for Urban Agriculture

City residents will now have the ability to turn their urban Pittsburgh property into a private agricultural center under legislation before City Council.

Sponsor Bill Peduto says his bill provides balance between agricultural opportunity on private property, and the protection of neighbor’s quality of life through zoning code. If a citizen pays the required $300 permit fee, one can grow produce on their property and sell it commercially. In addition to holding more specific livestock permits, this new permit will allow city residents to house livestock on their property, too.

"People want to have chickens, they want to have bees, they want to be able not only to have a small garden, but to be able to have a garden where they can also supply a farmer's market," Peduto says. "So at the same time that it's trying to promote that, we needed to balance it against the impacts on adjacent property owners."

The last portion of the bill sets up a grant program that educates residents about the best practices and works to provide financial assistance in covering the permit fee. The money for the grant program will be taken from the Capital Improvement Program’s budget for Demolition of Condemned Buildings.

"We wanted to make sure that the cost wasn't something that prohibited people from even applying, so we created a trust fund for those that are willing to do the process right," Peduto says.

According to Peduto, the last laws regarding urban agriculture disappeared in the '50s but a continued interest has drawn the city back to it.

"People would be surprised at how much the city does have an active urban agricultural base," Peduto says.

Citizens are still allowed to cultivate produce on their property for personal use, but selling those goods commercially will require a permit.

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