Councilman Cimperman is one of the country’s leading policy formulators in regards to urban agriculture. Because of Councilman Cimperman’s commitment to the residents of Cleveland and his collaborative approach to problem solving, the City of Cleveland has emerged as the nation’s top city for urban agriculture policy and implementation.
Urban agriculture in Cleveland began when a residential property was sold to a land developer who wanted to evict the low-income residents and raze the building. In order to develop the property, the developer needed to destroy a community garden located adjacent to the property.
Illegally, the developer evicted the community gardeners whose families had been gardening at that location since World War II. When researching this, Councilman Cimperman discovered that the City of Cleveland did not have a zoning code to protect community gardeners. By standing up for residents, Councilman Cimperman, initiated the urban garden zoning legislation – the first zoning classification for urban gardening in the United States.
Known as an Urban Garden Zoning District, the zoning classification gives the City the ability to reserve land for garden use. Through zoning, the City is able to permit urban gardens and prohibit other uses and requires public notice and a public hearing to change the zoning classification in order to permit different uses on the site. Additionally, the Urban Garden Zoning District permits “market gardens,” which include the sale of the produce from farmers’ markets.
Following the successful creation of the Urban Garden Zoning District, widespread resident approval, and influx and popularity of urban gardening, Councilman Cimperman, worked with community partners and the City of Cleveland to develop Chicken and Bee Zoning. Because Cleveland was at the forefront of urban agriculture expansion, there became a need to further legislation in order to simultaneously promote urban agriculture and protect resident health. Adopted in 2009, Chicken and Bee Zoning allows residents to keep limited numbers of chickens, ducks, rabbits, and beehives in backyards or small, vacant lots. The legislation established the need for participants to require licensing, in order to protect public health.
2010 was another successful year in Cleveland for urban agriculture advancement. Councilman Cimperman continued his commitment to the cause by helping establish legislation that permits agriculture in as a principal use on all vacant residentially owned lots. Pending Board of Zoning Appeals approval, the sale of produce from farm stands is permitted in residential districts. Councilman Cimperman was instrumental in establishing the Urban Agriculture Overlay District.
The Urban Agriculture Overly District is a critical piece of legislation because it promotes urban agriculture while simultaneously creating economic development opportunities. This zoning overlay allows the City to designate particular areas for larger-scale farming activities. It permits a greater intensity of animal raising and permits larger animals, as well as limiting larger-scale farming to areas specifically designated through ordinances adopted by City Council via rezoning.
Urban Agriculture stems from Councilman Cimperman’s idea that urban agriculture is about taking communities back. It is an answer to foreclosure. It is part of a commitment to food justice. Urban agriculture is about succeeding the goal of having a community garden within five blocks of every resident by 2019. It is about having local grocery stores purchasing local food from local farmers. Urban agriculture is about feeding ourselves. Councilman Cimperman believes that when Cleveland is the city that can sustain itself in terms of local food infrastructure, Cleveland becomes a model for other cities.
Councilman Cimperman sees urban agriculture as another example of Clevelanders pulling themselves up and taking care of themselves as they have always done. Urban agriculture has been part of Cleveland since the City was settles. This is one of the reasons why there is a strong urban agriculture sector in Cleveland and why it is a leading policy champion for urban agriculture in the United States.