• Sitka’s first home horticulture stand opens for business under new zoning ordinance

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The first home horticulture stand has opened in Sitka, taking advantage of a new zoning ordinance passed by the Sitka Assembly last December.

Anam Cara Family Garden, owned by Tom Hart and Lisa Sadleir-Hart, opened on Wednesday afternoon, July 1, in front of the family home at 815 Charles St. The farm stand will be open from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesdays through the summer, according to the stand’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GardenStandonCharlesStreet.

Before opening the home horticulture stand, the Hart/Sadleir-Hart family (which includes daughter, Muriel Sadleir-Hart) had to go through an extensive process with the city to get approval to sell their excess produce. The hope is the new process will be streamlined so the city’s planning commission can approve permits without home gardeners having to go all the way to the Sitka Assembly for approval.

“We started preparing for opening our garden stand a year ago when we approached the city planner at the time, Wells Williams,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, who also is president of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. “He was absolutely supportive of our efforts and coached us through the ordinance change process that would allow the sale of produce from a garden stand on our property in a residential zone. We met with the Planning and Zoning commission three times and the City and Borough Assembly three times, then came back to the Planning and Zoning commission three times after the zoning ordinance was passed. We were really glad to have moved through the public process to ensure our neighbors were supportive of what we wanted to pursue. The total time from the initiation of the public process to the date we actually received our conditional use permit, took about nine months. We had our ‘open garden stand’ event on July 1 and are looking forward to testing this venue for selling our excess produce.”

The ordinance allows garden stands in residential areas, but they are limited to six feet by eight feet. And to reduce the impact on neighbors, stands can only operate four hours a day, two days a week, between May and October. The ordinance specifically doesn’t include livestock or animal products. Home gardeners who set up produce stands in front of their homes will be required to have a business license and pay city sales tax.

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• Sitka Assembly to give second reading Dec. 9 on plan to allow home horticulture stands

Sitka Local Foods Network President Lisa Sadleir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden, which she and husband Tom Hart cultivate.

Sitka Local Foods Network President Lisa Sadleir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden, which she and husband Tom Hart cultivate.

The Sitka Assembly will take up a plan to allow temporary home horticulture stands in residential areas during its Dec. 9 meeting at Harrigan Centennial Hall. This will be the second reading for the proposal, which passed unanimously on first reading during the Sitka Assembly’s Nov. 25 meeting. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This ordinance passed 6-0 on second reading Dec. 9, with one member absent, and will now be added to the Sitka General Code. There was some discussion about the business license requirement, but the Assembly left the requirement in.)

Ordinance 2014-38 streamlines the permitting process for home gardeners who want to set up a temporary produce stand in front of their homes to sell their extra veggies. Instead of having to go all the way to the Assembly for approval, under this proposal the Sitka Planning Commission can make the decision.

“This is an example of something that we can do very specifically to improve our food system here in Sitka,” said Sitka Local Foods Network Lisa Sadleir-Hart, who first proposed the change to the Planning Commission this summer with her husband Tom Hart. “Secondly, it’ll increase economic opportunities for Sitkans who garden or are in small farm production. Third, it’ll keep produce dollars circulating locally. Fourth, it increases neighborhood access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And fifth, it may spur other Sitkans to consider growing for more than their families and lead to further increases in our food security.”

The ordinance will allow garden stands in residential areas, but they’d be limited to six feet by eight feet. And to reduce the impact on neighbors, stands can only operate four hours a day, two days a week, between May and October. The ordinance specifically doesn’t include livestock or animal products. Home gardeners who set up produce stands in front of their homes will be required to have a business license and pay city sales tax.

• Sitka Assembly to hear proposal to allow temporary front-yard produce stands for local gardeners

Tom Hart at Anam Cara Garden

Tom Hart at Anam Cara Garden

The Sitka Assembly is scheduled at its Tuesday, Nov. 25, meeting a proposal that will allow local gardeners to host temporary front-yard produce stands in residential areas.

Lisa Sadeir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden

Lisa Sadeir-Hart works in Anam Cara Garden

The proposal will modify city code to change commercial use horticulture from a conditional use in residential and island zones to a permitted use. It was passed unanimously by the Sitka Planning Commission during that group’s Oct. 21 meeting, with a change that will allow an expedited review and permitting process from the Planning Commission, so home gardeners don’t have to go all the way to the Assembly for a permit. The current zoning code allows for you-pick gardens, such as Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden, but doesn’t allow for temporary home produce stands.

Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart and her husband, Tom Hart, who operate Anam Cara Garden, first proposed the idea in August. They felt home gardeners can go through the permitting process during the winter, so they can operate their front-yard produce stands during the summer. The Planning Commission included a variety of rules on size, hours, neighbor notification, parking needs, etc., and it will review each proposed produce stand.

“I believe the public collaboration process works — it was good being able to work with the commission to make adjustments it was concerned about,” Sadleir-Hart said, according to an Oct. 22 article in the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “It will move us closer in terms of increasing the presence of locally produced food in our community. It will give Sitkans an opportunity to sell their produce to their neighbors, and benefit their pocketbooks as well.”

• Lori Adams’ contribution to Sitka gardening featured on Sitka Conservation Society website

Lori Adams poses with some of the ducks she keeps to help keep slugs at bay at her Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden. (Photo Courtesy of Sitka Conservation Society)

Lori Adams poses with some of the ducks she keeps to help keep the slugs at bay at her Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden. (Photo Courtesy of Sitka Conservation Society)

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this recent feature story about Sitka gardener Lori Adams on the Sitka Conservation Society‘s website.

Lori Adams is owner of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden (located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road), and the author of “How to Grow Vegetables in Sitka, Alaska” (a collection of her 2012 Gardening in Southeast Alaska columns originally published in the Daily Sitka Sentinel). Lori also is a regular vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The feature tells the story about how Lori wanted to start a you-pick garden at her house in 2007, but city code at the time didn’t allow people to grow food and then sell it directly to people from her private property. Lori worked with the city planning department and Sitka Assembly to rewrite the code so Sitka residents can apply for a special permit to sell food grown in their home gardens. The article also features several photos from her garden.

• Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center committee to present project update to Sitka Parks and Rec Committee

Community Greenhouse Turn Around_Page_1

Community Greenhouse Turn Around_Page_2Are you interested in seeing year-round produce and flower production in Sitka? The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center ad-hoc committee will give a project update to the City and Borough of Sitka Parks and Recreation Committee at noon on Thursday, May 1, at the Harrigan Centennial Hall Exhibit Room.

The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center idea started off as a project from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, but problems acquiring land kept the center from advancing much beyond the concept stage. In recent months, the project gained some new momentum when city officials suggested using land at the city’s Turnaround Park (the old amphibious plane turnaround near the corner of Halibut Point Road and Katlian Street, where the Sitka Skatepark and Sitka Trail Works office are located).

The current proposal is to build a 25-foot-diameter geodesic dome in the middle of the site’s current parking lot. As the project grows, the plan is to build a 90-foot-diameter geodesic dome in the center (the smaller geodesic dome will be moved to another location), with two conventional greenhouses along the ridge by Katlian Street and by the guardrail by the Sitka Trail Works building. There also are plans for some garden landscaping around the site to help clean it up and make it a more attractive place to visit. The greenhouse project will not impede the use of the Sitka Skatepark.

The slideshow below includes several concept drawings by James Patterson. These plans are subject to change, but they help give people an idea of where the project stands right now. Another option is to start off with a high tunnel greenhouse and build around it.

Sitka residents are encouraged to attend the meeting Thursday to show their support for the project. “If we don’t make it through this committee meeting it be ‘back to the drawing board,'” project coordinator Kerry MacLane said. “Your appearance for even a few minutes from 12:10 12:30 p.m. would mean a lot.”

The project was presented to the Sitka Historic Preservation Commission in mid April (the Sitka Turnaround Park is a historic site). If the greenhouse concept is approved by the Parks and Rec Committee on Thursday, it then will be presented to the Sitka Planning Commission on May 6. After that, the proposal will go to the Sitka Assembly to approve a lease to use the property.

Linked below are some concept points and a response to some questions by Parks and Rec’s partner, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 747-7888.

• Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center proposal bullet points

• Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center response to DNR questions

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• City and Borough of Sitka issues resolution in support of school meal bills

During its Feb. 14 meeting, the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly passed a resolution in support of SB 3/HB 132, which are bills in the Alaska Legislature that provide funding for school meal programs. The resolution was signed by Mayor Cheryl Westover.

The resolution recognizes that good nutrition is a major requirement of the education process, and many children can’t afford enough food or healthy food. When students don’t have enough food or eat the wrong foods, then they aren’t ready to learn. The resolution was part of a statewide effort by several groups to get movement on the bills. (Anchorage Daily News story)

Of the two bills mentioned in the resolution, SB 3 passed the Senate last year by a near unanimous vote (17 for, 0 against, 3 absent). Unfortunately, the bill has been buried in the House Finance Committee. Two men (Nick Moe in Anchorage and Kokayi Nosakhere in Juneau) started hunger strikes in support of the bill, but both have given up after significant weight loss because the committee chairman Rep. William Stoltze refuses to hold any hearings on the bill. (Anchorage Daily News story)

• Resolution 2012-03 supporting the passage of bills in the Alaska Legislature for funding of school meal programs