A zoning bylaw amendment to regulate small-scale commercial urban food production.
Food System Coordinator Interview with the City of Victoria Re: Small-Scale Commercial Urban Food Production
Small-scale commercial urban food production has been included as a permitted land use in the most recent revision of Victoria’s Zoning Regulation Bylaw.
Policy Development, Public Consultation, and Policy Adoption
The City of Victoria’s OCP (Chapter 17: Food Systems) and the City of Victoria’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan spurred the development of policies and programs to increase urban food production. Goal 8 of the Strategic Plan (“Enhance and Steward Public Spaces, Green Spaces and Food Systems”) called for a city-wide consultation to identify tangible projects and bylaw changes that could enhance the urban food system. This gave City staff the mandate to hold a community consultation process called “Growing in the City” in 2015-2016.
The year-long consultation culminated in the presentation of two reports to Council. The first focused on community food production on public lands, such as community/boulevard gardens, edible landscaping etc. The second, which discussed commercial urban food production suggested several bylaw revisions to accommodate small-scale commercial urban food production.
Overall, to better support small-scale commercial urban food production as part of the "Growing in the City" project, the Zoning Regulation Bylaw, Business Licence Bylaw, Sign Bylaw, Pesticide Use Reduction Bylaw, Streets and Traffic Bylaw, and Official Community Plan, were amended to:
- Define small-scale commercial urban food production (includes the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, fibre, seeds, nuts, seedlings, herbs, eggs and honey);
- Allow small-scale commercial urban food production in all zones;
- Restrict loadings of delivery trucks;
- Allow off-site retail sales;
- Allow on-site retail sales through food stands;
- Limit odours, noise and light pollution;
- Exempt rooftop greenhouses from height calculations and floor space ratio calculations;
- Exempt small-scale commercial urban food production from requiring a development permit for landscaping;
- Allow permanent farmers market signage;
- Allow boulevard gardening;
- Prohibit pesticide uses which constitute noxious or offensive business practices within the context of small-scale commercial urban food production;
As part of these changes, small-scale urban agriculture was established as its own category of permitted use, and urban agriculture was removed from the definition of home occupation. This further enabled urban food production since many of the restrictions associated with home occupation uses do not reflect the business model for urban farming. Additionally, this modification permits the pursuit of both a home occupation and a small-scale urban food production.
Overall, the bylaw changes for small-scale commercial urban food production received wide support from the community. The extensive consultation process afforded opportunities to integrate feedback and concerns as well as revise proposed changes.
Examples of issues\concerns identified through the community consultation and policy adoption process include;
- Pesticide use and compatibility of residential and urban agriculture uses (traffic, odour, parking, aesthetics etc.)
- Long-term integrity of structures such as greenhouses
- Regulatory barriers for community members wishing to participate
Collaboration among departments was an essential element of the development, implementation and roll-out processes. The Sustainable Planning and Community Development Department, and the Parks Recreation and Facilities Department worked closely in order to capture both the potential of City lands to contribute to community food production and the potential of private lands to be used for commercial urban food production. Throughout the implementation and roll out of the policy changes, close and ongoing communication was also maintained between many departments, including Parks, Planning, Legal Services, Engagement, Business Licensing, and Bylaw Services.
The City of Victoria is in the process of communicating and implementing the new bylaw changes. Doing so requires both internal and public communication strategies.
Given that the bylaw changes impact city operations across departments, substantial effort is being made to ensure that the appropriate information and resources are provided to all implicated departments so that all City staff are aware of the new procedures. This includes preparing “cheat-sheets” to summarize changes, discussing roadside stand regulations with bylaw enforcement officers, working closely with the business licensing department who will receive urban food production business applications, and training staff in the ‘Business Hub’ - Victoria’s first point of contact for business-related enquiries.
Implementing the new policies requires thoughtful training efforts and dedicated staff time to communicate important nuances. For example, the sale of sprouts, which are considered a high risk food by Island Health, is not permitted under small-scale commercial urban food production, while the sale of shoots is permitted. Therefore City staff must distinguish between these two similar raw, unprocessed food items with different regulatory constraints.
Public resources to aid in policy interpretation have been made available on the City of Victoria’s website at http://www.victoria.ca/foodproduction, as well as distributed at community events. These materials include a handbook summarizing the bylaw changes and providing tips and considerations for the design and implementation of small-scale urban food production, as well as other community resources (e.g. urban agriculture organizations that can provide additional information.) A single page “Urban Food” fact sheet that summarizes the handbook is also available as an initial communication tool to direct those interested to additional resources. A Building and Operating a Food Stand fact sheet provides information specific to food stands.
Policy Outcomes and Recommendations
The City of Victoria is in the process of monitoring business licenses, applications and uptake in order to assess the outcomes of bylaw changes.
‘Growing in the City' - Part 1: Urban Food Production on City-owned lands, 2016. Presented to City of Victoria, of the Whole Feb 25th, 2016. Retrieved from http://victoria.ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=690
‘Growing in the City’ - Part 2: Regulatory Amendments to Support Small-Scale Commercial Urban Farming, 2016. Presented to City of Victoria Committee of the Whole, Feb 25th, 2016. Retrieved from http://victoria.ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=690
City of Victoria, Growing in the City PHASE TWO: COMMUNITY FEEDBACK REPORT, October 2015 – January 2016. Retrieved from https://victoria.civicweb.net/FileStorage/64F2A909F0314676A7FCA65AB93B261C-3_Appendix%20B_Phase%202%20Engagement%20Summary%20Report.pdf, January 2017.
City of Victoria, Parks, Recreation and Facilities, personal communication, November 2016.