City Council has approved Zoning Bylaw changes allowing for more urban agriculture and local food production activities across the city as of February 2016.
The changes help align rules for the development of land in Edmonton with food production policies in The Way We Grow and fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. Residents can expect to see beautification of vacant and underutilized lots, more community gardens, and an increase in local food businesses in commercial areas and temporary spaces.
Removing barriers and creating opportunities for residents to cultivate and process food in urban areas encourages local economic development, and will help make Edmonton a more environmentally sustainable and resilient city.
The amendments approved by City Council on October 19, 2015 (see item 3.14) established three new land use classes for urban agriculture within the City’s Zoning Bylaw - Urban Outdoor Farms, Urban Indoor Farms, and Urban Gardens - along with the zones to which the new uses apply. These new land use classes officially create a place for urban agriculture within the bylaw and distinguished it from related activities, such as conventional farming, greenhouses, plant nurseries and garden centres.
Additional amendments approved at the February 17, 2016 City Council Public Hearing (see item 3.13) expand the three new land use classes to special residential zones, such as Terwillegar, Griesbach and Ambleside, and allow Urban Farms in Commercial Shopping Centre zones. The changes also introduce new wording to exclude cultivation or growth of marijuana from the Urban Indoor Farms Use Class. Health Canada approved marijuana production facilities are intended to be located in industrial areas under the General Industrial use class.
The changes also include:
- Ensuring the proper regulations and standards are in place for the design, maintenance and operation of urban agriculture activities. This includes development regulation considerations to ensure compatibility with surrounding land uses, and minimize potential nuisance factors on neighbouring properties in residential areas.
- Excluding gardening for personal use from requiring a development permit.
- Excluding community gardens from requiring a development permit on City parkland, as the City already has a process in place to evaluate proposals.
- Allowing animal keeping that is in accordance with the regulations under Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw 13145. City Council passed an amendment to the Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw on April 28, 2015 to permit beekeeping in the city. A report on urban hens was presented at Community Services Committee on March 7, 2016.
Consultation on the October 2015 amendments included two meetings with the Edmonton Food Council, two focus groups with external stakeholders, one focus group with internal staff, and an online survey with over 1000 responses that showed overwhelming support for urban agriculture in the city.
- 92% of survey respondents supported commercial urban agriculture.
- 78% of survey respondents were in favor of urban agriculture activities being conducted on some or all vacant lots in the city.
- 80% of survey respondents were in favor of allowing gardens used for urban agriculture to have limited on-site sales.
In addition, the amendments were also circulated for feedback twice to a list of 255 stakeholders, which included members of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Urban Development Institute, local food businesses, focus group participants, and internal City departments.
The Public Hearing on October 19, 2015, also provided opportunity for members of the public to share their views with City Council and Administration on expanding the new land use classes to additional zones.
Urban agriculture is the cultivation, processing or distribution of food in and around cities. It can include activities such as vacant lot, community or rooftop gardens, urban farms, hydroponics, and aquaponics.