(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2011)
The commission unanimously voted for new zoning within the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood District that will allow local organizations to cultivate fruits and vegetables in the urban area for profit, as well also allow the composting of materials produced on the two specific sites.
The zoning change, however, will not affect current zoning code of the properties and they will still remain zoned for residential use.
The city-owned parcels will be leased for five years for roughly $125 - $200 a year.
After the lease is up, the groups would then be able to apply for a five year extension on the lease after more community input.
Although a majority of residents at the meeting were in support of the program, which aims at bring more nutritious food options to under served neighborhoods, many still had concerns about soil contamination.
“I believe that it would be irresponsible for the city to go ahead permitting on these two sites without testing the soil,” said District 4 City Councilor Charles Yancey.
“How can this commission turn a blind eye to these environmental concerns?” added Yancey.
Although Yancey was not alone in his concern about soil contamination, many supporting the proposed farms, including two scientists testifying in support of the project, said methods laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency, would protect the crops from harmful chemicals in the soil.
To protect the crops and the residents consuming them, the Boston Redevelopment Authority along with its project partner the Department of Neighborhood Development, said farmers will be required to lay a geotextile fabric over the original soil to protect the 12 – 18 inches of clean soil laid on top.
The farms will also be required to test the soil twice during growing season.
To date the city has not tested the soil on the parcels for contaminates.
The Pilot Urban Agriculture Project is just Phase I of the city’s larger Urban Agriculture Initiative which will review ways citywide to modify zoning code to allow and encourage more urban agriculture, such as rooftop agriculture and vertical farming.
Phase II of the initiative which began in summer 2011 will also review the potential of allowing small farm animals in other areas of the city but not on the two specific parcels.