Boston Community Process for Urban Agriculture Rezoning Underway

Evan Coleman

Since I last checked in, the comment period for Article 89 in Boston began and is now well underway. Article 89 is a proposed new section of the Boston zoning code that encourages and creates opportunities for commercial urban agriculture citywide. This is an important first step to expanding urban agriculture, and CLF is excited about the possibilities for our local food system. There are some aspects of Article 89, however, that we would like to see changed before implementation of the final version.  We’ll be at the neighborhood meeting in Jamaica Plain tonight to express these views, and hope to see you there!

If you are interested in urban agriculture in Boston, this is your moment to get involved. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is holding a series of public meetings throughout Boston’s neighborhoods to allow for residents and interested parties to express their opinions. The first public meeting, which was for the downtown neighborhood, was held two weeks ago at Suffolk Law School, and drew a great response from the community – urban farmers, residents, and other interested parties voiced a number of thoughtful questions, comments, and concerns.

While CLF is overall very supportive of Article 89, there are several areas we would like to see revised before the proposed language becomes final. In particular:

  • Farm stands: The proposed guidelines on farm stands are too restrictive and prevent easy access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables in the city. The recommended rule prohibits farms in some sections of the city from dedicating space on their property to sell produce without going through a burdensome permitting process. This prevents neighbors from reaping the benefits of healthy food grown in their neighborhood.
  • Composting: The BRA suggests limiting the area used for composting on urban farms to 5% of the farm’s area. This percentage is unrealistically small and restrictive.
  • Comprehensive Farm Review (CFR) Process: The CFR process, which is a new permitting process designed just for larger urban farms, will be challenging for farmers and is difficult to understand. The draft states that the purpose of the CFR is to ensure that Urban Farms are designed in a way that takes into account the needs and concerns of the surrounding neighborhood – which we support. However, the BRA does not provide any guidance to farmers about how proposals will be evaluated. The BRA should consider modifying the CFR process to be less burdensome to farmers, and should issue agency guidance to clarify how the CFR process will work.
  • Community Input: Some communities have expressed concerns about bringing farming to their neighborhoods. The community meetings this summer are a useful tool for gathering feedback, and the BRA should be sure to respond to concerns from affected communities. However, this comment period should not be a one-off – the BRA should ensure that community input is heard and addressed on an on-going basis.

We appreciate the opportunity to acknowledge our concerns regarding draft Article 89 and hope that affected communities continue to engage in thoughtful discussion at neighborhood meetings. A list of neighborhood meetings dates and locations can be found here. We hope to see you there!

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