COMMUNITY VOICES | Open Saint Paul: Hearing Nov. 6 on St. Paul Urban Agriculture Zoning text amendments- What do you think?


The Urban Agriculture Zoning Study was initiatied in October of 2011 by the Saint Paul Planning Commission. The goal of the study is to identify how locally grown food-related uses are dealt with in the zoning ordinance and if there is a need to revise the code to remove any undue barriers. Staff reviewed national best practices to develop draft amendments for those topics that are appropriately addressed by zoning.

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The Saint Paul City Council will hold a public hearing on draft Zoning Code amendments pertaining to farmers markets and urban agriculture. The City Council had previously requested the study in order to support access to locally grown food, and bring the code up-to-date.


The study recommends zoning regulations that would allow agricultural uses to be located on privately-owned vacant lots. The most common form of agriculture in Saint Paul is community gardens. In residential areas conditions are recommended to ensure the use is compatible with an urban neighborhood. This study has no effect on backyard home gardens, but could allow residents to sell produce grown from their yard on a limited basis. There will be no animals other than bees (subject to existing bee permit requirements) allowed with agricultural uses.

Currently, most community gardens and other agricultural uses are located on public property, through leases from City departments. These zoning changes will allow these uses on private property and let the private market determine the best location for these uses rather than limiting it to City-owned land.

The proposed zoning requires agricultural uses of one acre (about 1/3 of a typical city block) or more to get a conditional use permit, which places additional requirements on the use to ensure it is compatible with the neighborhood. Agricultural uses of any size would need a site plan approval, which has a $30 fee.

Farmers Markets

The study also recommends new regulations for farmers markets. The Planning Commission previously recommended creating these regulations because there was no clear guidance in the Zoning Code about how these uses should be regulated and thus every new proposal for a farmers market was a different process. The recommended regulations streamline the approval process and allow farmers markets in all areas of the city, but require markets to be located on parcels larger than one acre (such as schools, institutions, etc.) in residential districts. Sales would be limited to products of the farm directly from the producer.

The study recommends limits to the number of days and hours of operation for farmers markets based on the number of vendors. Farmers markets with more than five vendors would need a conditional use permit and all farmers markets would require site plan approval.

The draft amendments can be viewed at:

The public hearing will be held before the City Council on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 300 of the City Hall/Court House, 15 West Kellogg Boulevard. All comments concerning the draft Zoning Code amendments will be heard. Comments can also be submitted in writing to: Office of the City Council, 310 City Hall, 15 Kellogg Blvd. West, Saint Paul, MN 55102 or to Anton Jerve at, or faxed to 651-266-6549.

From Nate Kaselnak inside Ward 5:

I think this reflects the community’s growing desire to have locally sourced and healthier food options. I would love to have more options to stop and pick up vegetables without having to park and go into a grocery store. I think there are good provisions set to ensure proper soil quality, but I’d also like to see some guidelines regarding what growers can put ON their produce. I think there should be organic guidelines around the use of pesticides and herbicides.

From Margaret Owen Thorpe inside Ward 1:

It’s not clear from either the summary statement or the proposed amendment text if “Agricultural uses of any size would need a site plan approval, which has a $30 fee.” applies to ordinary backyard vegetable and fruit gardens or not. Earlier, the summary statement says, “This study has no effect on backyard home gardens, but could allow residents to sell produce grown from their yard on a limited basis.” But “agricultural use of any size” sounds as though it means my tomatoes, cabbages, and green beans. Does it?

I am in total support of as many people growing food in the City as possible. But I’m not paying the City – or anyone else – $30 to tell me whether or not I can plant eggplant next to peppers.

From Marian Kramer inside Ward 3:

This seems like a reasonable amendment. I would caution people looking to establish urban gardens to do some research on previous land uses of the area/parcel they are looking to develop and possible contamination issues. For example, it would not be advisable to establish a garden on a parcel that has contaminated soil due to previous land uses without collecting soil samples first. Just a suggestion from a local geologist!

There are 3 comments on this question as of October 18, 2013. Read the rest here.