City Seeks Input on Zoning Changes for Urban Gardens

Community Garden

With increased interest in community gardens and locally produced foods, the City of Knoxville is ready to propose changes in the zoning ordinance that will make it easier for individuals and community groups to establish farming on privately held land.

Anyone interested in community gardens, urban agriculture, and sales of produce from these gardens should plan on attending a public meeting from 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday, July 14, at Cansler Family YMCA, 616 Jessamine Street. The city’s Office of Sustainability is hosting the meeting and leading the effort in consultation with other city staff and the Food Policy Council.

For the time being, due primarily to liability issues, the City will not permit gardening on city-owned property. But there is still plenty the city can do to encourage the use of privately held land for community gardens and market gardens.

Personal gardens will continue to be unregulated, and construction of garden structures will continue to follow standard permitting.

Under the proposed regulations, a “community garden” would be allowed as a “use by right” in all zones, up to a maximum of 10,000 square feet. Composting would be required in bins not to exceed five percent of the lot size.

Any garden larger than 10,000 square feet, or which utilizes hydro/aquaponics, would be considered a “market garden” that could be allowed as a primary use with a “use on review” in all zones, requiring approval by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Certain regulations would apply to composting.

For both types of gardens, structures such as garden sheds and greenhouses could be permitted with standard building setbacks. Non-structure uses, e.g. plantings, would be set back five feet from the perimeter. No parking would be required. Registration of the gardens would be required with the Office of Sustainability, but no fee would be assessed.

Incidental sale of produce would be permitted on site in personal gardens and community gardens on site with a “Seasonal Sales of Produce” permit. In market gardens, on-site sales would be limited to produce grown on site, but off-site sales can also occur with a $100 permit that must be renewed each year. A business license would also be necessary.

Bee keeping would continue as a use by right, whereas urban hens would be allowed only for personal use under current regulations.

Feedback from the public meeting and from other comments will be addressed as the Office of Sustainability prepares final recommendations for ordinance changes, which would then route through MPC before landing at City Council.

If you are unable to attend the public meeting, you may obtain additional information after July 14 by contacting the Office of Sustainability at or 215-2065.

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