August 22, 2013

Community Gardening Is About to Get Easier


An Athens Land Trust community garden at the West Broad Street School. [Blake Aued]

The Athens-Clarke County Commission is poised to allow neighborhood residents to start their own community gardens and even sell some of the produce at local farmers' markets.

Right now, community gardens are mainly restricted to property owned by churches, nonprofits and schools. That's because local zoning laws prohibit commercial agriculture (as opposed to personal gardens) on residential property.

But the growing popularity of community garden spurred commissioners to look at easing those restrictions. "I think there is a lot more interest than ever today in community gardens," said Kathy Hoard, who chairs the commission's Government Operations Committee.

That committee recommended allowing community gardens of up to one acre in neighborhoods across Athens. A garden of more than one acre will require a special use permit from the local government. Setbacks and a ban on livestock will be in place to protect neighbors.

No one objected to the changes tonight, which means the commission is likely to vote Sept. 4 to instruct the county Planning Commission to develop an ordinance. So don't break out your spades just yet.

"I'm sure it's going to be massaged before it gets back to us," Hoard said.