Gardens abound within the city of Meadville, but agriculture is not permitted as the principal use of any property within city limits. Thursday, the city’s Zoning Hearing Board will hear a request from Meadville Redevelopment Authority for a variance that would allow a community garden in a now-vacant lot once occupied by a residence at 1195 South Main St. The board will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday in the training room at Meadville Central Fire Station, 850 Park Ave.
At some point, however, a variance may no longer be required.
During the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s recent monthly meeting, members gave the go-ahead to Gary Johnson, the city’s zoning administrator, to formally prepare a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning code.
As proposed, the amendment would allow community gardens in all zoning districts as a special exception subject to 10 specific standards. According to the zoning code, “special exception” refers to a use allowed only after special permission granted has been by the zoning hearing board.
The required standards would include:
n Written consent of the property owner must be included at the time of application for the special exception.
n No animal raising or keeping or beekeeping is permitted.
n Site users must have an established association which may or may not be incorporated; a set of operating rules addressing the governance structure of the garden, hours of operation, maintenance and security requirements and responsibilities; and a garden coordinator to perform the coordinating role for the management of the garden. The name and telephone number of the garden coordinator and a copy of the operating rules shall be kept on file with the city.
n The site must be designed and maintained so that water, fertilizer, sediment or other runoff will not drain onto adjacent property or onto a public right-of-way or public street.
n A minimum 5-foot pervious strip shall be maintained between any cultivated area and all property lines.
n There shall be no retail sales on site.
n No buildings or structures shall be permitted, other than one shed limited in size to 64 square feet. Fences shall not exceed 6 feet in height, shall be at least 50 percent open if they are taller than 4 feet and shall be constructed of wood, chain link or ornamental metal.
n One non-illuminated sign conforming to size restrictions for the garden’s zoning district shall be permitted, except that in residential or transitional areas, the sign shall be limited to 4 square feet.
n At least two off-street parking spaces will be required if inadequate on-street parking exists to meet this requirement adjacent to the garden property.
n The site shall be kept clean and free from litter. If refuse receptacles are used, they must be city-style refuse and recycling receptacles. Composting is allowed within a composting container provided that only materials generated on-site are composted. All refuse, recycling and compost facilities must be kept at least 3 feet from property lines, screened from abutting residential uses, public rights-of-way and public streets, and maintained in such a way that odors and fly breeding do not exceed what is customarily found at a well-maintained residence.
In place since 1994, the city’s zoning code is currently being revised to bring it into conformance with the update of the city’s comprehensive plan completed in July 2013. A deadline for completion of the update has not been established; the community gardens amendment would be included in the revised code.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.