Residents, community groups show up to support urban farming ordinance
by Emily Lowrey • January 09, 2013 @ 11:14am
The Zoning Committee meeting at City Hall this morning to discuss changes to the city ordinance to make Birmingham friendly toward urban farming brought out a diverse crowd of about three dozen people. From business suits to flannel shirts, ladies wanting to keep urban chickens to a brood of people from Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and 20 somethings to retirees - everyone had the same mission: to get the ordinance passed. The Zoning Committee was in agreement.
With a few minor changes, the ordinance passed and will now go to the Birmingham City Council for a vote and perhaps a few changes of their own.
Elizabeth Barbaree-Tasker, REV Birmingham employee who sits on the committee, successfully championed an amendment to the allowable proximity of chicken coops to other structures - expanding them from 25 ft. to 15 ft. “I know my yard is small, and I would have to place it in the dead center,” said Tasker.
Councilwoman and Zoning Committee member Kim Rafferty brought up concerns over the lack of required soil testing in the ordinance, especially in those areas near the airport that have known contaminants. While committee members pointed out that the state of Alabama does not require soil testing on any existing farms, they agreed that soil testing should be required and passed an amendment.
The zoning ordinance received quite a bit of support from members of the community, who stood up to offer any help needed in implementing the ordinance if passed.
Taylor Clark, Public Market Coordinator at REV thanked the city for working on the ordinance, offered REV’s support and said, “This will make Birmingham a more attractive and progressive place to live.”
A resident of Crestwood who called herself a “renegade chicken farmer” and admitted to keeping illegal chickens in the city on a mobile tractor coop with wheels offered to provide her first-hand knowledge and expertise in helping to implement the ordinance. She made reference to operating in the “underground” with other “renegade chicken farmers.”
A line of flannel-clad farmer-types stood up in the audience when Stephanie Munkachy from Jones Valley Urban Farm spoke to the committee and said, “We are here to support any initiatives that foster the development of community food projects in Birmingham.” David Fleming, Chair of the Zoning Committee, asked if they were with her. They all nodded in unison.
The business community was also involved. The owner of the Painted Shovel in Avondale, a shop that sells chicken-keeping supplies and plans to also sell bee-keeping supplies and courses on both, offered to serve as resource to the committee.
A woman from Mountain Brook even showed up and offered the solution of vertical farming above-ground for contaminated lots. She kept saying “we” in her reference to community and talked about how Huntsville and other cities were getting recognition for their green initiatives. She said she wanted to see that here in Birmingham too, and that she wanted to be proud of Birmingham.
Tim Gambrel, from the city’s office of Planning, Engineering and Permits presented the ordinance to the committee. Because he is a city employee, he could not comment on the ordinance.
We’ll announce the meeting information when the ordinance appears on the City Council’s agenda.
The following organizations sent representatives to the meeting: West Side Community Gardens, Oakwood Place Community Gardens, Lakeview Association, the United Way, REV Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission, Jefferson County Garden Association and Norwood Resource Center.