Zoning code media coverage & precision of language.

A recent Baltimore Magazine article highlighted the new urban agriculture regulations in the proposed Baltimore City zoning code; unfortunately, the imprecise language in the article obscured the nuances of the new code, laid out in previous posts on this blog.

The article states that:

“[a]nother aspect of the code is creating opportunities for community gardens, which would make places like Real Food Farm in Clifton Park … a permitted zone for urban agriculture.”

First, the proposed code calls these areas “community managed open space,” not community gardens, like the article says. Community managed open space is a more inclusive term that can refer to any space maintained by more than one household and that is used for either cultivation of edible crops or for active or passive recreation. A place like the Pigtown Horseshoe Pit qualifies as community managed open space but isn’t a community garden, since it’s used exclusively for recreation.

Second, community managed open space (which is a category into which community gardens would fall) and urban agriculture are distinct categories with very different consequences under the zoning code. CMOS is a permitted use in almost every zone of the city. On the other hand, urban agriculture is a conditional use, which is more heavily regulated by the city. The only place where urban agriculture is a “permitted use” as the article suggests is in some light industrial zones in Baltimore.

If you look up Real Food Farm (block lot 4199 009) on the Rewrite Baltimore map, you’ll see that the farm, which is directly adjacent to the school, will fall into an R-6 residential zone under the new plan. Under the proposed plan, urban agriculture would be a conditional use for RFF, and community managed open space would be a permitted use (no conditional use permit application required).

When thinking through the implications of new statutes and regulations, like the zoning code, it’s important to use terms precisely and to think through the implications of the use of those terms, because they have real-world consequences.

Posted on by Becky Witt

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