Greengrocers: Coming to a Front Yard Near You?

The Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council (SFPC) is proposing a zoning code change to include the sale of fresh produce and cottage foods as an allowable “home occupation.”

According to the City of Denver Zoning Code a “home occupation” is a use that is accessory to primary residential use that allows limited business activities to be conducted from a residence. Allowable “home occupations” were created to reduce traffic impacts by commuters, facilitate small business ventures and provide services convenient to where potential clients and customers live. The standards and procedures surrounding home occupations are intended to minimize the impact that such business ventures may have on the character and enjoyment of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

The council is a mayoral-appointed commission that “…builds the capacity of local food policy bodies to find common ground on policy priorities, generates public support for those policies, educates policymakers on issues in our food system, and advocates for food systems that reflect the needs of all its communities.”

Posted on the Policy page of the SFPC website, this proposed zoning change is Policy #1, stating that this zoning amendment will increase the availability of fresh produce for sale in all Denver neighborhoods. Other promotional material published by the council lists desired outcomes such as decreasing obesity and hunger by increasing access to healthy food choices, fostering food security for all community members and allowing families an opportunity to earn some extra income.

In 2012, the State of Colorado passed the Cottage Foods Act, which allows individuals to sell certain foods from an unlicensed home kitchen. “Cottage foods” include whole eggs, nuts, seeds, dehydrated produce, honey, preserves, spices, teas and certain baked goods. Cottage food operations do not require a permit or license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. They are not inspected by any state or local government entity. Food safety is supported through the limitations of the types of food allowed to be sold (considered non-potentially hazardous) and that producers must sell their own products directly to the consumer.

Cottage Foods must be labeled and eggs must be handled in accordance with state requirements. Separate from the Cottage Foods Act, raw, uncut produce can be sold in Colorado without licensing or registration. The proposed zoning amendment would therefore permit produce and cottage food sales within the City of Denver that have already been made legal in the State of Colorado.

The SFPC recommends that the city zoning code be amended to:

• Allow residential producers to sell their own products directly to consumers – “direct producer to consumer sales”

• Require sellers to purchase a one-time home occupation zoning permit for $20

• Restrict sales between 7 a.m. to dusk

• Conform to sign restrictions for all home occupations – one flat or window sign that is on-site, non-animated, non-illuminated, and does not exceed an area of more than 100 square inches. Any other signage is prohibited.

• Require producers to comply with all the requirements of the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, including:

– Completion of a food safety course

– Product labeling for source traceability

– Limits on the total value of sales permitted ($5,000 net annual sales for each product produced)

• Conform to other home occupations, which do not require additional parking

• Conform to city tax policy, which does not apply sales tax to food products

• Fresh Produce and Cottage Foods Sales may operate unenclosed and utilize temporary, portable furniture such as tables, chairs, and umbrellas during permitted operating hours only

At –Large Councilwoman Robin Kniech is sponsoring this proposed zoning amendment. There is currently no time line established for the City review and approval process. This proposed Zoning Code Text Amendment must be reviewed and recommended to City Council by both the Manager of Community Planning and Development and the Planning Board. City Council is responsible for the final action regarding text amendments.

Once recommended to council by the Manager and Planning Board, the proposed text amendment will become a council bill to be discussed and voted on during a regularly scheduled City Council meeting. The full Council meets most Mondays in regular session at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers in the City and County Building. Public Hearings are required to be held during City Council meetings when a council bill is up for final consideration. The public review draft of the proposed text amendment can be downloaded from Councilwoman Kniech’s webpage at denvergov.org.

Bernadette Kelly is an architect and land use specialist, and is Board Secretary of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. For more information on produce and cottage food sales visit the Denversfpc.com or cofarmtomarket.com.

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