Council allows gardens on vacant lots

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, April 21, 2016

City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to establish gardens as a primary use in certain zoning districts.

The changes to the city’s ordinances mean that people can establish gardens on vacant lots in residential zoning districts, as well as in agricultural, village center and the Central Business District zonings.

Previously, gardens were allowed only with a primary structure, such as a house, already on the property.

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“It’s simply a good idea,” said Daniel Strum, a Cedar Point resident who received a zoning violation notice after gardening in a vacant lot near his home.

Gardening gives people exercise, helps lower their carbon footprint and reduces fertilizer runoff into area waterways, Strum said during the public hearing in Wednesday’s meeting.

Nobody spoke against the proposal.

Acting Planning Director Bob Goumas said there are a number of regulations on the gardens.

The property owner must apply for, at a cost of $35, and receive a zoning permit before a garden can be established, Goumas said. There is a review process where the Planning Department staff ensures all requirements are met before it issues the permit.

The gardens would be a maximum of two acres in size, but the size of each garden would depend on the lot. Each garden must meet the same setbacks as would any other use, such as a building. A shed would be allowed on the lot with the garden, but the shed would have to be removed if the garden were removed, Goumas said.

Produce from the garden would be for personal use only, Goumas said. Commercial crops could not be grown or sold on the site.

Lighting, signage, fencing, screening and other aspects of the gardens would all be regulated. Once properly established, the garden would be permitted as long as the garden remained established.

Goumas said city regulations do not address homeowners’ association regulations.

Goumas also noted that the new regulations do not change that gardens continue to be allowed without a permit when another primary use, such as a home, already exists on the property.

“Hopefully, this is going to be more for the greening of our city,” Councilman Tim Johnson said.