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Youngstown urban farmers want flexibility in zoning laws

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Urban farmers in Youngstown are asking the city to be flexible in allowing birds and bees to be a part of urban agriculture.

It's part of a growing green movement to use vacant city land for food production.

After winning a grant in a land-use contest, Sophia Buggs is excited about her new urban farm on vacant land near her south side home.

"Not only do I want to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, I would also like to have some chickens, some honey bees and maybe some small goats," Buggs said.

Sophia already has raised beds and a small green house on the space she calls Lady Buggs Garden.

"I'd also like to use this as an education space for showing folks how to eat local and eat fresh so they too can become very healthy," Buggs added.

Under current zoning codes, anyone who wants to have live animals must go through an application and inspection process that involves the health commissioner, the planning commission and city council.

Meagan Tehua serves on the Mahoning Valley Food Police Council which supports a simpler progressive process.

"It's really a great opportunity for Youngstown and the city to set clear, fair, guidelines and efficient process so that's not on a case by case basis," Tehua said.

Law Director Anthony Farris, who serves on the planning commission, says zoning codes currently under review as part of the city's redevelopment plan could still be subject to modifications, and the urban farmers hope to have input.

"To let they know that having small chickens and honey bees is something that wouldn't be a nuisance or a problem, but it would actually add to the livelihood and beautification of the space here in Youngstown," Buggs said.

The urban farmers say they plan to attend the next meeting of the planning commission to offer their viewpoint.

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