Urban ag zones, new water cost breaks advance

garden-2A city council committee on Wednesday advanced an ordinance to trigger use of a new state law for urban agriculture zones.

The Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee also approved a resolution supporting “KC Grow” – new breaks on city water costs for gardening.

The full city council is expected to approve both measures today.

The state law is intended to help cities plan and promote gardening and related operations as ways to revive blighted areas.

It allows cities to freeze property taxes for 25 years on improvements made to blighted properties.

Under state law, less than one percent of sales taxes could go to a fund for agriculture education at schools.

On Thursday, Councilman Scott Wagner said state legislation is pending that would allow the sales tax to instead be used by an urban agriculture zone.

The state law also says those who grow, raise livestock and engage in some other local food operations may pay wholesale water prices to cities.

But Wagner said court rulings forbid that so the city is starting the KC Grow water initiative.

Kansas City Community Gardens would administer the program, which would offer water audits, oversight, technical assistance and grant administration to people like community groups and farmers.

Wagner said about $100,000 is provided for the program in the yearly budget that begins today. The money comes from late fees for water bill payments.

The zones can be established for growers, processors and vendors of local food or for combinations of the categories.

Each zone will go to a public hearing procedure and must be approved by the city council.

The zones have nothing to do with zoning, Wagner said, so to the question, “Do I have three chicken coops that show up next to me, the answer is no.”

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