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Proposal to Philly zoning code threatens community gardens

In the last few years, more and more residents in Philadelphia and other large cities throughout the country have taken to urban farming and the creation of community gardens. While these are constructive measures to make one's lifestyle more sustainable, these gardens and farms can be put in danger by local zoning boards.

This is the case in Philadelphia, where a new proposal to the zoning code threatens the existence of the city's 350 gardens and farms. Of those gardens, 200 of them are intertwined with commercial areas.

The new proposal states that owners of these urban farms and gardens must ask for permission from the Zoning Board of Adjustment in order to operate in their respective locations. The city's old zoning code did not even account for gardens within the city.

While the proposed measure sounds more like a time inconvenience, it can also serve as a financial drain on the people and nonprofits operating these gardens and farms. They will have to shell out an estimated $250 per parcel of land along with any legal fees tied in with the matter.

Of course, this will also be a timely process, too, as applicants will be forced to:

• Schedule a hearing

• Notify neighbors in the vicinity of the garden or farm

• Post notices on the premises

• Fend off arguments from all those opposing the garden or farm

• Prove that the garden or farm conforms to the zoning code and standards

A councilwoman for the city said that the city council is in favor of city gardens, but the new proposal was aimed at stopping people from doing whatever they wanted at the cost of their neighbors.

When an individual or business is up against a city over land use or zoning issues, it can be an uphill battle. If those individuals and businesses equip themselves with legal professionals, they can understand their rights and fight city administrators accordingly.

Source: Philly.com, "Justice for the gardens," Virginia A. Smith, Jan. 19, 2013

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