Proposed Zoning Code Amendment Tries to Weigh Community Input with More Extensive Community Gardens

In February 2014, Baltimore City Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke introduced an amendment to the proposed Zoning Code Rewrite, which may have an impact on community gardens and urban farmers throughout the city.

The proposed zoning code, without the amendment, provides a new name for community gardens – Community Managed Open Space (CMOS). CMOS means any open-space area that is maintained by more than 1 household and is used for growing fruits, vegetables, and plants. Under this definition, community-operated agriculture projects would qualify as a CMOS as permitted use in almost every zone of the city. (See April 26, 2013 post for more about CMOS and the difference between CMOS and “Urban Agriculture”). Included in this permitted use would be sites with livestock (as long as they follow Health Department Regulation), weekly farm stands, and compost processing using off-site materials.

However, Councilmember Clarke’s amendment proposes to create two categories of CMOS, retaining the previous definition for CMOS (community garden), which would still be permitted use, and creating CMOS (inclusive), which makes any projects that include livestock, a farm stand, or receipt of compost from off-site as conditional uses.

Councilmember Clarke wrote that she proposed this change because she believes neighbors should have an input on whether community agricultural projects keep livestock and animals, sell produce from a farm stand, and collect composting material from off-site.

If this amendment is adopted into the zoning code rewrite, community-managed agricultural projects throughout the city will need to obtain special permission from the zoning board. A hearing before the zoning board costs $250.00 for a weekday hearing at which the zoning board has the discretion to grant or deny conditional use permits. The public hearing allows community members to give input, and voice objections, to any proposed conditional uses.

As the Baltimore City Council moves forward to refine the CMOS regulations, it will have to balance the interests and concerns of neighboring community members who wish to ensure the quiet enjoyment of their neighborhoods with the interests of community gardeners and urban farmers who wish to expand the experience of growing food in Baltimore City.


Posted on by Kristine Dunkerton

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