Urban Ag in the Desert
The City of Tucson is holding public meetings over May and June as part of an effort to revise the City’s zoning regulations on urban agriculture, including farmers’ markets, community gardens, urban farms, and the keeping of small animals. To help you understand what’s going on, we’ve put together some background info, including some highlights in bullet form.
As part of the Sustainable Code Integration Project, the City of Tucson is revamping the city’s zoning ordinances related to urban agriculture and local food sales in Tucson. Although urban food production has been going on for many years in Tucson, this is the first effort to bring the city code up-to-date to reflect those activities. Members of the Pima County Food Alliance (PCFA) and others have actively followed the zoning code process, and have provided input on the proposed changes.
For the most part, the proposed zoning changes are coming together nicely and will be instrumental to creating a greener and more edible landscape in Tucson. Nonetheless, there has been pushback from some neighborhood members who are concerned about the potential implications of the new ordinances. These residents have been (and will likely continue) insisting on more restrictive regulations for urban agriculture. In addition, there are a few issues that still need clarification (particularly regarding the raising of small farm animals).
Given the controversy that these zoning changes have raised among some neighborhoods, it is important that we generate a large showing at the two public meetings to demonstrate widespread support for continued (and expanded) food production in the City of Tucson. It is particularly important that Tucson residents who keep farm animals (or their neighbors) attend these meetings. There has been a lot of disagreement on issues regarding the keeping of urban farm animals. Please consider attending the meeting and/or extending the invitation to other interested parties!
Highlights of the Proposed Zoning Changes
- The proposed changes provide guidelines to allow garden sales from homes, community gardens, urban farms, and small and large farmers’ markets
- They propose guidelines for the size and placement of greenhouses, animal housing/corrals, and compost
- They attempt to define appropriate set-backs and guidelines (including number limits) for raising small farm animals
Potential Problems with the Proposed Zoning Changes
- Farmers’ markets in residential areas will require a Special Exception Procedure, an annually-renewed permit, and can only operate between 7 am and 5 pm (this is more restrictive than current regulations).
- The number of fowl permitted is reduced from 24 to 8. In addition, the keeping of up to 3 small animals is permitted.Small animals include miniature goats, rabbits, rodents, fowl, and other similar animals. Larger properties can have one additional animal for every additional 5,000 square feet of property. Property owners may request the number of animals be increased through a Design Development Option. No animal shelters are permitted between the building and the front street.
- Although on-site sales of home-produced agricultural products are permitted, the sale hours are restricted to between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
If you want to delve deeper, consider investigating the following resources:
If you can’t make the meeting, but have comments to make, you can always contact:
Rebecca Ruopp, Office of Integrated Planning
(520) 837-6973; Rebecca.Ruopp@tucsonaz.gov
Also feel free to contact the Pima County Food Alliance with any comments or concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org