Urban farming guidelines approved by BRA

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board approved new urban farming zoning guidelines, called Article 89, at its Nov. 14 meeting. It must still be approved by the Zoning Commission before it takes effect.

Assuming the Zoning Commission approves it at its Dec. 18 meeting, Article 89 will go into effect before the end of the year, BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler told the Gazette.

Since JP last hosted a community meeting this summer, Article 89 has been revised. Farm stands would now be allowed as of right on any urban farm. Urban beekeepers would no longer have a limit on the number of hives they can own. And urban farms will be able to have up to 7.5 percent of their area dedicated to composting, among other changes.

Article 89 does 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. 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.

Article 89 also has guidelines and restrictions 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.

The BRA has repeatedly invited JP residents to submit petitions to request a review of neighborhood zoning to create an allowance for backyard hens and bees.

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