Will Detroit’s Hantz Farms be the World’s First Urban Farm?

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that he claims was signed by 90 percent of affected residents asking the city council to work with Hantz Farms.

“I’d love to see a copy of that petition,” says Dan Lijana, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing. “We can’t attest to the methodology of their petition. If it were official, we’d have to go through a whole process of address verification. That’s great that they’re trying to generate support, but for the city to verify that … we haven’t done an analysis.”

When asked if the city is in favor of Hantz Farm’s proposed project, Lijana says, “Conceptually, yes—we’re absolutely in favor.”

Rob Anderson, the city’s director of planning and development, says that he’s still waiting to see architectural plans of the Hantz Farms project so the city can fully understand the scope of the project.

“Plus, Right to Farm has been a roadblock so far,” Anderson adds. “We’re looking for a solution that isn’t just for Hantz Farms, but for a number of other smaller entities as well.”

Keith Creagh, the director of Michigan’s Department of Agriculture, disagrees with characterizing the Right to Farm Act as a roadblock. He says Governor Rick Snyder has asked his department not to be an impediment and to participate in urban agricultural initiatives by increasing access and assisting in economic recovery, but ultimately the state’s Agricultural Commission will need to approve any policy that allows local governments to bypass zoning laws that conflict with the Right to Farm Act.

“We’re asking the Commission to pre-approve local ordinances that allow commercial farming entities to negotiate directly with the cities they wish to farm in,” Creagh says. “We ought to be proactive to work with cities and businesses on safety issues and economic enterprise. We ought to be a resource and not an impediment, and that’s our goal.”

Since the Agricultural Commission isn’t expected to take up this issue until December, the fate of the Hantz Farms project remains unknown. Anderson says an agreement hasn’t been presented to the city or finalized, though he expects it to go before city council sometime in October.

“We want Hantz Farms to be successful if they go forward,” Anderson says. “We’re all ambitious and want to move fast, and the [project’s] potential impact to create jobs, provide local food, and use vacant land for this type of activity has a really great shelf life. But at this point, nothing is quantified. It’s just something we’re negotiating.”

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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