(The following article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 3, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
By TOM HESSE
Sentinel Staff Writer
A potential zoning change that would allow gardeners to sell their extra produce from home started to take shape at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.
The proposal was brought forth by Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Thomas Hart [who own Anam Cara Garden] during an August meeting. The idea is to allow Sitkans with large gardens to sell their produce from their homes, which would include those in R-1, R-1 MH, R-2, R-2 MHP, GI and LI zoned districts. Since the zoning revision was first proposed, the city planning department has been trying to shape the rules, and Planning Director Wells Williams told commission members that there are a number of forms they could take.
“Like anything else, it’s a fairly simple concept but it gets complicated fairly quickly,” Williams said.
Currently, you-pick style gardens are allowed under a conditional use permit. Williams said the new proposal, which is being called commercial home horticulture, could follow a similar path. The big difference would be that gardeners could sell their produce and have a small stand in their yards where they could sell it. Those differences could be an issue in some neighborhoods, said commissioner Chris Spivey.
“There are definitely a lot of concerns about the sheer fact of having anything commercial in an R-1,” Spivey said.
Because of that, requests for commercial home horticulture permits would be done on a case-by-case basis under the proposals now being considered. Planning staff tentatively proposed a conditional use system whereby applicants would need to notify neighbors and take their applications through the planning process.
Sadleir-Hart said a four-week process to obtain a permit would be appropriate for gardeners who are looking ahead to the next growing season.
“Most people who would be moving through this process would be moving fall through winter,” she said. “To me that would be plenty of time and just being a good neighbor.”
Some of the issues commission members raised were about the days and times when sales would be allowed, how large garden stands could be, and how best to handle applications.
After a discussion, the commissioners decided the best system may be to set hours on a permit-to-permit basis.
“It’s that way with a lot of conditional use permits that we do. It varies from neighborhood to neighborhood,” commission member Richard Parmalee said.
Specifics are far from being concrete, but stands 6 feet by 8 feet in size, with an awning, are in the current proposal. They would be temporary, so they would be up only during the growing season.
“You’re going to have people in the neighborhood that want something that is aesthetically pleasing or temporary and easily broken down,” Spivey said.
Commissioners did take out a items from the original proposal, regarding greenhouses and sheds.
Williams said the planning office would take the comments from Tuesday night’s meeting and start drawing up a draft proposal with more specifics. The issue will be discussed further when the panel meets on Sept. 16.