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'cause it's easier being a green sinner than a green saint . . .

Supporting Pittsburgh Urban Agriculture Zoning

If you haven't heard, there are proposed changes (pdf) to Pittsburgh's urban agriculture zoning. (Here's a great, plain-language explanation from Grow Pittsburgh (pdf) if you don't love zoning codes quite as much as I do.) There was a Planning Commission hearing this week, where the proposed changes passed unanimously. The next step is a vote in City Council. greenSinner wholeheartedly welcomes these improvements, and here are the comments we submitted to the Planning Commission.

To the members of the City Planning Commission:

I'm writing to you in support of the proposed changes to the zoning for urban agriculture uses in the City. I'm sure you're hearing from many voices about the implications of more suitable regulation and more affordable permitting fees on important issues of food accessibility, especially in lower-income neighborhoods.

I want to bring another issue to the commission's attention: that of the economic, environmental, and aesthetic benefits of a thoughtful urban agriculture policy. As an entrepreneur in urban agriculture, my company has been growing cut flowers in the City of Pittsburgh for four years on two tiny lots in Lawrenceville. As we prepared for an expansion in the last year, we considered many options, including sites in suburban or rural locations, but we ultimately decided on an urban location. Urban agriculture offers many advantages to us as business owners: easily accessible workplaces for our employees, readily available utilities, and proximity to our customers.

The benefits of encouraging entrepreneurship in urban agriculture are many. We've created 2.5 jobs over the past four years, in addition to seasonal work, and anticipate several additional jobs to be created over the next several years of our expansion. An urban location allows us to keep those jobs within the city. Additionally, urban agriculture uses can revitalize abandoned and neglected properties through the city: improving their environmental state by cleaning up trash and overgrowth and remediating soil contamination, and improving the fabric of communities separated by blighted properties with new, green, and attractive businesses.

The proposed changes to the urban agriculture uses in the zoning code, if enacted, would be a clear sign to urban agriculture entrepreneurs: Pittsburgh is open for your business.