At the Planning Commission on the 16th of April at 4:00pm the City of Muskegon will be presenting an updated urban farming ordinance.
While there have been a number of changes significant problems remain, including the following:
1. The City will require soil testing but the ordinance gives no guidance as to what is being tested for or what standard will be used. Is this just for lead or is this a full panel $1000 soil test? Note: city ordinances do not require out of town farmers to test soil to sell at the new city farmers market, and market policies are still being researched.
2. Existing community gardens that meet all of the rules will have to pay $500 and go through special use permit review (as will everybody else) if any of their members want to sell. They may also have to tear down greenhouses or make other improvements if they don't meet the new setbacks. This $500 entry fee virtually guarantees that low income individuals will never be able to sell produce that they grow. Anyone who want to sell will be subject to this cost even if they are growing in a 100sq/ft plot with no site changes.
3. You also won't be able to grow and sell on the same site even if on a commercially zoned lot, and even if you already have a retail business on the same lot!
4. After complaining last year that if they allow sales, commercial farms will pop up on every vacant lot, the city is now poised to allow commercial farms but only on vacant lots. They will also be outlawing private gardens on vacant lots anywhere in the city - this after they protested last year that they were not going after private gardens. And, if you want to start a small farm where you live that's too bad since you won't be able to grow to sell off of any property with a building on it. At the same time that an out of town company can buy any vacant residential zoned property in the city and start a farm on it no one can grow vegetables in their own back yard and sell them.