Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Should Urban Farms Be Commercial?

Lantzville Urban Farm Raises Questions

Recently an 'urban farmer' in Lantzville has been in the news. Apparently the District of Lantzville has decided that current zoning does not allow for commercial food production, but does allow for production of food for personal consumption.

The principle of course is much like motherhood and apple pie of course, as the right to produce food is pretty basic to human survival.

However, what is not quite so clear is the application of zoning considerations and how they apply to the way we construct our villages, towns and city's. The report in the local daily says the matter became an issue when a bylaw officer was inspecting an unsightly premises complaint which led to the discovery of a commercial agriculture operation in an area not licenced for it.
The unsightly premises complaint was related to piles of earth and manure on the property, which apparently has caused some issues with at least one neighbour.

The Mayor of Lantzville is inviting the offending party to make a presentation to council which could result in the bylaw being revisited which could make the operation legal.

All well and good, who in their right mind wants to stop the production of food? However, it does open a can of worms which is not likely as simple as it first appears.

If you allow commercial agriculture in basically residential areas what kind of limits do you put in place for the potential problems such operations bring to the area. For example, how many tons of manure can you store on your property with which to fertilize your crops? How much water can you draw from the local aquifer if you need to irrigate your crops? Are there any limits to the amounts of chemical fertilizers you can use to increase crop production? Will local ground water be affected by the run off from fields chemically fertilized? Will trucks used to move food to market create any problems with road damage, and noise bothering the neighbours? If you can sell from your property, is there adequate parking to handle customer traffic? If you are going to allow the commercial production of vegetables, what about raising livestock such as pigs and chickens? What about sheep and goats?

If you move into an area that you think is residential, should you have any expectations that your neighbours are not basically going to 'stink the place up' by running what is really a small time farm? Like many issues, they are seldom quite as simple as they appear at first blush.

I realize that none of these questions may apply to the present urban farmer in question, but when you change rules and bylaws you have to be aware they will apply to anyone else who comes along wishing to turn their city lot into a cash producing farm.


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