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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Council OKs urban farming

Restrictions on small livestock lifted

Growing, raising and selling your own food just got easier in Spokane.

City Council members agreed Monday to lift zoning restrictions on small livestock and allow unlicensed produce stands in residential neighborhoods, a move backers hope will encourage more urban farming and sustainable lifestyles.

“If you grow it on site, you can sell it on site,” said Council President Ben Stuckart, who led the push to draft the urban farming plan.

The market gardens portion of the plan won unanimous council approval, but support for easing livestock restrictions cleared on a narrower 4-3 vote. Councilmen Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori opposed the livestock provisions.

The votes came after more than an hour of mostly supportive public testimony from Spokane residents.

Under the plan, small livestock such as goats, sheep and pigs are allowed in residential neighborhoods but those wanting to keep farm animals in their backyards are required to obtain an animal-keeping certification through Washington State University’s extension program. Chickens also are allowed but are exempt from the educational requirement. Roosters are banned.

Additionally, the sale of locally produced fruits, vegetables and eggs is exempt from zoning restrictions.

The number of farm animals would be capped based on the size of a property, and wouldn’t count against the maximum number of pets allowed per residential lot. The rules would allow one chicken (or turkey, duck or other fowl) for every 1,000 square feet of property or one small livestock, such as a goat or sheep, for every 2,500 square feet of property.

Goats and sheep “excluding large meat breeds” would be allowed in all residential zones. Some small pig breeds also would be allowed. Male sheep and goats would have to be neutered and de-scented.

The plan is modeled after similar efforts in Toronto, Cleveland and Portland.

“I’m not expecting this to replace going to the grocery store,” Councilman Jon Snyder said. “But what I am expecting is that it can begin reversing this decades-long disconnect … between us and our food.”

Opponents of the livestock provision warned that hooved animals are too smelly for the close confines of urban neighborhoods.

“If it was just chickens, I’d support that,” said Allen, who cautioned that the requirement for a 5-foot setback from the property line was too little. “If you want those kinds of farm animals, move to the county.”

The ordinance requires the council to review the livestock portion of the plan in one year and the market gardens provision in two years.