Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken and Bee Zoning

This is so cool. One of the things that drives me crazy about most cities and their planning departments is that they don't tailor zoning or trends in zoning to their specific community needs. Oh, they mean well, and they think that they are being place specific, but few have the courage to actually try implementing anything new. The reality of a lot of current city planning is that its designed to trigger economic growth and development. Many communities just try to lay down something that worked in Portland or Chicago on their own cities without acknowledging the key underlying factors that are missing, like a high level of urban density, that made it work elsewhere. I would be happy to see this zoning from Cleveland, OH copied around the country. In fact, I like the idea so much that it makes me want to send their planning department a fan letter. Yay, Cleveland!

Like other cities, notably Detroit, confronted with rampant home foreclosures and vacant parcels, Cleveland is not willing to let urban land lie fallow. In the 77-square-mile area within city limits, there are currently 18,000 vacant lots totaling 3,500 acres. While the primary goal is neighborhood redevelopment – including an emphasis on arts and entertainment and building on anchor institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and universities - the city has also launched several initiatives to try to enhance urban form despite dwindling population and stalled private-sector activity. Among them: stabilizing vacant lots with urban gardens and native plantings, demolition of structures while maintaining foundations to allow the construction of greenhouses, allowing sideyard expansion, and using vacant lots for geo-thermal wells to heat neighboring structures. But perhaps the most interesting effort is "chicken and bee" zoning – dramatically reduced setback requirements for coops and hives on empty parcels. The city is considering going even further, relaxing rules for raising roosters, turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, and sheep, and possibly including new agricultural overlay districts for more intensive urban farming. Robert N. Brown, director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission, said that zoning would not be changed to accommodate processing or slaughtering, but that urban farming was seen as an appropriate use of the vacant land for now. He made a presentation on the efforts at the annual convening of city planning directors from the nation's 30 largest cities sponsored by the Lincoln Institute, the American Planning Association, and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

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