JP chickens still illegal under urban farm zoning

July 5, 2013
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The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) presented its draft urban farming guidelines at a June 18 community meeting at English High School, one of a series of meetings throughout the city.

To the surprise of community members present at the BRA presentation, the plan would not automatically legalize backyard hens in Jamaica Plain. Many JP activists pushed for the zoning changes for that reason.

Article 89 is intended to promote commercial urban farming, and it does legalize backyard chickens in areas where they are not already explicitly banned.

But JP’s zoning code, last rewritten in the 1990s, explicitly lists backyard chicken-keeping as a “forbidden” use. The neighborhood zoning code would require specific revisions to allow for chickens.

BRA representatives John “Tad” Read and Marie Mercurio invited JP residents to submit petitions to request a review of neighborhood zoning to create an allowance for backyard hens and bees.

“Tad and I wish we could do more for [backyard] hens and bees,” Mercurio said at the. “The neighborhood codes cannot be superceded.”

“We don’t want people to think this is the BRA telling JP what to do. It’s the other way around. This is why we want to see significant neighborhood support,” Read said at the meeting.

Article 89 also outlines guidelines and restriction for commercial urban farms, rooftop farms, farm stands and hydroponics and aquaculture installations. Aquaculture is the raising of fish and other aquatic life. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in water instead of soil.

Community meetings will continue through July in other neighborhoods. In September, the BRA expects to host its final working group meeting. In October and November, meetings with the intent to approve Article 89 will be held by the BRA Board and the Zoning Commission. Article 89 is expected to be adopted by December.

The BRA’s urban agriculture initiative website is bit.ly/BRAagri. Comments can be sent to John.Read.BRA@cityofboston.gov and Marie.Mercurio.BRA@cityofboston.gov.