This article was published in the Sunday, June 22 Op-ed section of the Arizona Daily Star.
Lorien Tersey is a rare Tucsonan who tends chickens legally. She and her husband live on an acre plot tucked near North Country Club Road and East Glenn Street, so she can easily comply with the current zoning regulations that mandate all chicken coops be set back 50 feet from property lines.
Most people who tend chickens in Tucson don’t have this luxury of space. If your chicken coop is within 20 or 30 feet of your property line, it doesn’t matter how many chickens you have — they’re all illegal under Tucson’s current zoning code.
The city is trying to fix that. A proposed update to the urban agriculture zoning code would codify much of what is already happening in backyards and community gardens across the city.
“The zoning code related to agriculture is of a different era,” says Jim Mazzocco, the planning administrator for Tucson’s Planning and Development Services Department. An era when commercial agriculture reigned, when there would be no reason for residents to produce their own food.
“No one was thinking that there would be this integration of urban areas with agriculture as some part of them,” says Mazzocco.