New Urban Farm Rules Going Into Effect

Back at the end of August--right in the middle of the whole egg recall debacle and in the middle of many discussions about the safety of our nation's food supply--I wrote a piece about the whole new spate of "urban farming" amendments to existing city ordinances that had been passed by the Seattle City Council.

This was perfect timing, and many of the new rules significantly expanded the boundaries of what was legal to do (farm-wise) within the city limits--not only allowing brave urban pioneers to keep more chickens (and pygmy goats) on their property, thereby promising safer eggs (and goat milk) for all concerned, but also allowing a whole lot more farming than had ever been legal before.

And now, with all the signatures in place, all the t's crossed and i's dotted, the new rules are due to take effect this week. So what, you may ask, are we looking at exactly? What can an urban farmer do that he (or she) couldn't do before?

Well let me tell you:

1) "Urban farms" have now been defined by law, and are "permitted outright" on plots of up to 4000 square feet. You want your backyard carrot patch to grow beyond that, you're going to need to get yourself a conditional use permit.

2) Greenhouses are now allowed on top of highrises, with an additional 15 feet of clearance given to them, over the structure's legal height limit.

3) Zoning hurdles have been cleared, which now allow urban farms (as well as community gardens and horticulture operations) in just about any residential zone imaginable.

4) And as for livestock? Yes, you can now become a mini-rancher in your own (appropriately sized) backyard. The way things shook out, you are now allowed up to eight chickens (but no roosters), one miniature pot-bellied pig (under 150 pounds), four beehives (comprising one swarm), and/or four miniature goats.

All of the actual new rules and regulations, all spelled out in legalese, runs to almost fifty pages and includes a lot of highly specific stuff about zones, solar collectors, greenhouses, shellfish and ponies. So if you're wondering whether or not that new pygmy goat solarium you just built on top of your apartment building is gonna get you thrown in the pokey, you might want to check out the full text of the new ordinances, just to be sure.

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