Madison Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway and others want to make it easier to have gardens on city terraces and plant gardens and other food-producing plants — fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts — on more city-owned lands.
The proposals, introduced to the City Council and now under review by committees, are intended to support the growing interest of residents and groups in urban agriculture and "edible landscapes," said Rhodes-Conway, 12th District.
Rhodes-Conway started working on proposals about three years ago and is pushing forward now as a result of talks at the city's Food Policy Council.
"It's a symbolic way for the city to say, 'We support people who want to grow their own food,'" she said. "I hope it becomes a positive difference for neighborhoods."
Bill Barker, a city Parks Commission member, said the proposals can help the city address so-called "food deserts" where residents lack nearby access to nutritious food and also help build a sense of community.
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
The city currently allows planting on terraces, but with restrictions including distance from sidewalk and curb and a maximum 24-inch height.
"This is going on today without harmful effect to anyone," Rhodes-Conway said, noting the proposed change would likely loosen the height rule.
The proposal would let residents have plantings commonly found in flower or vegetable gardens and landscaping — but not trees or shrubs — in the terrace next to their homes.
It would permit landscaping features like mulch, small rocks, temporary wire fencing, lattices, and vegetable cages, but not pots, railroad ties or some other fixtures.
A new terrace policy would regulate where plantings and features could be placed and include criteria for permanent fixtures and standards for use of chemicals.
All plantings would have to be maintained to be safe and orderly and not obstruct the public's use of the street or sidewalk. Plantings could be removed by the city at any time without compensation.
The proposal has at least eight co-sponsors.
The city in 2012 allowed the planting of edible landscape with permission in some areas of parks. Rhodes-Conway also is proposing to expand the planting of edible landscape — with permission — to other city-owned land held by other agencies such as the Water Utility or Engineering, or around public housing. The proposal has at least four co-sponsors.