Lexington is fortunate to have a grassroots community that supports sustainable and affordable food access. Local food helps Lexington’s economy and promotes public health while also providing a link between the infill and redevelopment core and our signature agrarian green spaces. With spring approaching, I am pleased to report that Council has taken the final step to incorporate community and market gardens into our regulations.
The need for community gardens is formally recognized in the Themes, Goals, and Objectives of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan. At the request of numerous constituents, I brought the issue of community and market gardens to Council at the August 18, 2015 Council Work Session. Council then voted to move the issue to the Planning and Public Safety Committee to draft a recommendation for updated legislation.
After review at the December 8, 2015 and February 9, 2016 Planning and Public Safety Committee meetings, Council and staff determined that the best way forward was to advance two parallel tracks of legislation. The community gardens legislation was designed to allow groups of individuals to share a plot of land for a collective yield. Shared gardening can develop affordable produce for a neighborhood, a sense of community through work, and add vibrancy to the built environment. Enacting the legislation required a modification to the Code of Ordinances, which had to be advanced through Council. Market gardens, which allow on-site sales, required a zoning ordinance text amendment (ZOTA) in the zoning ordinances and therefore review by the Planning Commission. With consensus-driven tweaks to the community gardens legislation, the Committee advanced an ordinance recommendation to Council. Council then gave the ordinance first reading at the March 17, 2016 Council Meeting and second reading at the April 7, 2016 Council Meeting, making the proposed legislation law.
The complementary market gardens ZOTA needed review from the Planning Commission. The Commission initiated the text amendment at the October 27, 2016 and recommended 9-0 the staff text at the January 26, 2017 meeting. The approved recommendation went to Council, which gave the first reading at the February 23, 2017 Council Meeting and the second reading at the March 2, 2017 Council Meeting. Both the community gardens legislation and the market ZOTA updates are now law.
Many thanks to my colleagues on Council, staff, and all of the community leaders who have helped support civic green spaces, our local food economy, and public health. If you are interested in starting a community garden, Seedleaf offers a Masters Community Gardener Training here.