CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Planning Committee members unanimously approved the proposed urban agriculture ordinance Tuesday evening, paving the way for the measure to go to city council for final approval.
The ordinance is essentially meant to encourage, permit and regulate agriculture in city limits.
Under the proposed bill, community and personal gardens would be permitted in all zoning areas in the city. Residents would also be permitted to have up to six hens and three beehives.
"[Urban agriculture] is something that . . . has exploded here in recent times," Planning Director Dan Vriendt told committee members.
Vriendt said that the Charleston Planning Department has been constantly receiving inquires about regulations concerning urban agriculture activities, and therefore, the city needs to codify permitted activities.
"People seem to be overwhelmingly fine with it," he said of the proposed ordinance.
The bill is largely based on an urban agriculture ordinance from Chicago, but it is also influenced by ordinances in other cities. Vriendt said that urban agriculture ordinances in cities of similar size to Charleston also permitted other animals, like goats and rabbits, but the planning department opted to not include those animals in its ordinance.
"We had to draw the line somewhere," Vriendt said.
Discussion of the bill largely centered on hens. Councilman Chris Dodrill, who is part of the planning committee, expressed concerns about the birds being a nuisance to neighbors.
Geoff Plagemann, neighborhood planner with the city planning department, said that hens don't typically carry any communicable diseases, and if they do create a nuisance or wander onto neighboring property, the issue will be addressed "just like any other kind of animal."
The ordinance also requires land used for urban agriculture to be well maintained. Activity on the property may not create a "nuisance due to noise, smoke, electrical interference, dust or obnoxious odor."
Violations would be subject to penalties as stated in the city's zoning ordinance.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.