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The Plan Commission Wednesday night supported proposals to permit neighborhood gardens and urban farms in Evanston.

The proposed ordinances now go to the City Council for action.

Neighborhood gardens

The neighborhood garden ordinance would let an individual or group operate a non-commercial garden as a primary use on property in any zoning district, although in downtown districts a neighborhood garden would require a special use permit.

Currently such gardens are only allowed as an accessory use — which means someone could have one in the backyard of their home, but not on a vacant lot down the block.

The city’s community gardens in parks are considered an accessory use to the park.

The new ordinance would also allow garden operators to have a garden shed or similar “accessory structure” on the garden plot. Current regulation don’t permit accessory structures on properties that lack a primary building.

The ordinance would also ban sales of garden produce at the garden site and permit only “incidental” off-site sales.

Urban farms

The second ordinance would permit establishment of what the ordinance calls urban farms and rooftop urban farms, which are both currently banned in Evanston.

Urban farms would be permitted only as a special use and only in industrial zones.

Rooftop urban farms would be permitted as a special use in any zone except residential zones.

Both would permit growing plant products for wholesale or retail sale and would permit processing of the produce on site.

Board members defended requiring special use permits for the uses with concerns about possible manure odors from farms that might locate near residential zones.

Top: A community garden at Twiggs Park in Evanston.

Related document

The Plan Commission packet, including the draft ordinances

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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