Residents and Policymakers in Lawrence, Kansas are Working to Revise Urban Agriculture Codes
November 16, 2015 | Hana Livingston
City planners in Lawrence, Kansas are working together with local farmers to finalize changes to the city’s urban agriculture regulations. Home to the University of Kansas, this city of 80,000 hopes to work toward a strong relationship between urban farmers, non-farmer residents, and local governments in other small cities across the country, according to local station KAHB.
In August, the city conducted a survey asking residents about the barriers they face in growing food. They received 160 responses that they hope will indicate how to best support backyard farmers and urban growers in Lawrence. Open meetings were held on September 28 and October 19 to discuss the proposed new plan, which focuses heavily on small livestock but also addresses land access and on-site sales for community gardens and urban farms, among other things. The proposal puts the spotlight on “small animals that are more appropriate in a denser urban setting,” specifically bees, birds, small goats, worms, crickets, rabbits, and fish.
According to reports, Lawrence residents and city officials agree that livestock housing and living space is of primary concern. They hope to find a middle ground between housing that is humane and healthy for animals and humans, while also appropriately managing waste and minimizing odor, insects, noise, and other disturbances to neighbors.
The new code would regulate livestock ownership based on lot size. One bird would be allowed for every 500 feet of lot size, capped at 20 birds per lot. The new code would also permit one or two small goats such as pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarf goats, and miniature dairy goats (“small” is defined as less than 24 inches at the withers). It also sets clear standards for the size of the goats’ living spaces and open-air enclosures.
Under the current code, raising bees is prohibited. The new code would allow beekeeping based on lot size, from two colonies on a lot that is one-quarter acre or less, all the way up to eight colonies on a lot that is over an acre.
The proposed new regulations also set guidelines for the types of structures allowed on residential properties. These are mainly related to livestock housing, but they also discuss hoop houses, cold frames, and other “temporary urban agriculture structures,” which would be exempted from building regulations.
Proponents of the plan also hope to include allowances for selling food items at the site where they were grown or produced, according to KAHB. Slaughtering fowl for personal use may also be included in the new standards, depending on regulations at the state level. If policymakers are successful in setting standards for home bird slaughter that are compatible with state law, it may set a precedent for other Kansas cities to follow suit.
So far there has been little resistance to the urban farming movement in Lawrence. Rather, urban growers have enjoyed broad support from city residents and local government. For example, the Common Ground Program, created by the city government in 2012, allows growers free use of under-utilized city properties. Growers are required to submit a Community Benefit Plan outlining how their project will contribute to community development. The Common Ground Program has been successful in transforming vacant lots into sites of healthy food production and community enrichment. Various sites have hosted student field trips and community gardening classes, and they have donated over 3300 pounds of produce to local food pantries, according to the City of Lawrence .
According to KSHB, Lawrence city planner Mary Miller expressed support for revising the urban agriculture codes, emphasizing the importance of access to fresh, local food. She hopes the expansion of urban growing will help combat food deserts in the city and encourage healthy eating.