The city of Birmingham is holding a town hall meeting on January 9 to discuss updating city ordinances to encourage more community gardens, local farmers markets, and even bee keeping and backyard chicken coops.
This initiative is part of the Birmingham Comprehensive Plan:
The comprehensive plan will set out a 20-year policy and strategic framework for the City of Birmingham. Guided by an overall vision that embodies the unique personality, culture, and heritage of our community, the planning process will establish a set of goals, policies, strategies, and implementation actions to achieve the plan’s vision for Birmingham’s future. This will be the city’s first full comprehensive plan since 1961. It’s our opportunity to set a new course for Birmingham in the 21st century.
Well, urban farming is certainly a great place to start. Several years ago, gradyw wrote about the problem of Birmingham food deserts:
Unfortunately much more than 2.2 percent of Birmingham area residents live more than a mile from a supermarket. Birmingham is also burdened by a lack of quality public transportation which further compounds upon this issue. [...] I know that this is something that has plagued a number of areas in this state and while many assume it to be a rural problem, the problems in urban areas are just as drastic.
This excellent Magic City Post article contains information about the town hall meeting as well as a description of the proposed changes. A sample:
2. Community Gardens are proposed to be an allowed use in all residential zoning classifications and most commercial and industrial zoning classifications.
4. Apiaries (places where bees are kept for their honey) are proposed to be an allowed use in all residential and commercial zoning classifications and most industrial zoning classifications.
5. Public Markets are proposed to be an allowed use in most commercial and industrial zoning classifications.
9. Chicken Coops could be allowed if an applicant is granted a special exception from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Let's hope this initiative is successful because the problem of food deserts and the lack of access to fresh, healthy foods is quite real - and expensive.
Food costs more when purchased from convenience stores and choices there are limited. If fresh fruits and vegetables are available at all, costs are high - a dollar for a banana, for instance. That gives poorer families an incentive to bulk up on high fat & high carb foods, because you get more food for the money and feel "full" after eating.
But that, in turn, increases the societal costs. Food deserts are a threat to health. Alabama has the nation's 4th highest obesity rate and the 18-24 age group represents the largest segment. The health risks of obesity - diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, increased cancer risk - will cost this state a bundle as these young people, who should be in their prime of life, develop long-term, expensive chronic illnesses.
The town hall meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 9th at 8:30 a.m. in the City Council Chamber on the 3rd floor of Birmingham City Hall. The address is 710 20th St. N. in Birmingham. If you cannot attend the meeting but would still like to have your concerns known, email Tim Gambral in the city’s planning office at email@example.com.
If any of our LIA folks are able to attend, please give us a report on this important issue.