July 09, 2016

Preserving an urban farming culture in Glendale

Preserving an urban farming culture in Glendale Preserving an urban farming culture in Glendale
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By The West View

To walk 10th West in Glendale is to travel back in time. The air tells you...this is farmland. There are fields of fresh-turned earth waiting for the next assignment, robust fruit trees and grapevines overhanging sidewalks, and makeshift stands where you can buy farm fresh eggs and organic produce.

The city grew up around this place – around the farms and people, around the chickens and the barns – and if something isn’t done to protect it, the city will grow over it. In many ways it already has.

It is something a group of residents on 10th West are trying to reverse. They hope to establish lasting protection for the historic urban farms of Glendale by reinstating the pre-1950s agricultural zoning on their properties. They call their rezoning group “Glendale Chickens.”

Carol Hovey, a second generation landowner on 10th and one of the leading proponents of the rezoning effort, said, “The story of rezoning or retro-zoning10th West is about our agriculture character and history…and embracing our area as an important part of the city that deserves to have protections in place.”

Glendale is minutes from modern downtown Salt Lake City, but parts of the neighborhood are deeply rooted to the past. The first agricultural settlements were created in the early 1870s with the construction of the George Q. and Caroline Cannon house, which still stands at 1354 S.1000 West.

The families who settled here turned up the ground for the purpose of making an agricultural-based life – a lifestyle that has virtually remained unchanged ever since. More than fifty years of aerial photography and family narratives provides the proof.

And yet in the 1940s and ‘50s, in conjunction with the development of the first major subdivisions springing up in Glendale, much of the land along 10th West was arbitrarily rezoned as R1-7000; Single Family Residential. Although the zoning changed, the primary use of the land did not. Life on 10th simply doesn’t match the paperwork. What happens from day to day is not in compliance with city code, leaving it vulnerable to conflict and encroachment.

For decades the city’s enforcement was capricious; only occasional citations were issued. The most recent rash of citations began when a new neighbor moved in. Complaints about chickens, horses, farm trucks, and tall grasses began to pile up.     

The neighbors of 10th West mostly keep to themselves, but after news of increasing sweeps of animal control and city citations slowly made its way up and down the clothes lines, a group of concerned neighbors gathered in a large circle on a front lawn, along with then City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, to decide what to do about it.

All the prominent families were represented. Dressed head-to-toe in working western-wear, they brought blueberry muffins, a plate of fresh baked cookies, and the history of the area. Their fathers and grandfathers were the original landowners here.

Others present included neighbors from the surrounding area interested in protecting the land that drew many of them to relocate here. “We moved for the land,” said Colby Ries, a 10th West resident and supporter of the rezoning efforts. He relocated his then young family to Glendale over a decade ago in search of open space. “We wanted to grow a big garden and raise chickens so we could live more sustainably.”  

The neighbors agreed that in order to gain the needed protections, the properties in question must be rezoned from the current ill-fitting R1-700 to an AG-2 Agricultural District with a modification of the required lot size from a two-acre minimum down to a qualifying 1/2 acre, site specific.

The rezoning proposal is an opt-in program; only those wishing to rezone, sign on.Along with the paperwork and meetings is a large application filing fee and a smaller but still significant fee for each household that wants to be included in the rezoning.

The agricultural designation will give landowners real protection for their open spaces, agricultural actions and equipment, stables and kennels, and functional fencing. It would support seasonal farm stands, community gardens, and it opens the door to build protections for the farm animals that have always been here.  

It would also help the families access programs, such as reduced water rates, that support the cultivation of urban gardens and other sustainable practices.  

The urban agriculture on 10th is what open space supporters, urban planners, community garden pop-ups, environmentalists, hipsters, politicians, all say they wish to preserve and cultivate.

In fact, on page 33 of the West Side Master Plan the historic character and potential of the area is mentioned: “The large intact lots [signature to 10th West] present conditions that provide unique development opportunities. The potential for interior block urban agriculture is one of those opportunities.”

“Regardless of the dollar value, there is something more valuable in our community that keeps families here. We don't often see a place up for sale on 10th West or any adjacent properties. There is intangible value in the open space, the enormous old trees, the proximity to the Jordan River and the many thousands of migrating birds,” said Hovey.

What you will find on 10th West is uncommon and it is endangered. The rezoning effort isn’t just about chickens; it is about a community wanting to preserve its way of life.

If you have questions regarding the 10th West Agricultural rezoning efforts please feel free to contact or , or follow them on the Glendale Chickens Facebook page. For more information on B.U.G. Farms visit them at www.backyardurbangardens.com.