Urban Agriculture Zoning Approval Process

hive app

This post comes from Cassandra Morgan, Manager at the Frick Greenhouse and Shiloh Farm.

I’ve wanted to get two beehives at Shiloh Farm for about a year, but wanted to wait for the new Zoning Code to pass. I thought the process would be easier and cheaper, and it was definitely worth the wait!

I read the simplified version of the code, but I was still unsure about which form to fill out. I knew I had to visit the Division of Zoning and Development review, so I called their offices (412-255-2241) and left a message. They got back to me via email within a few days and said the Walk-Through Zoning Application would be enough, along with a site plan or survey to scale showing all proposed structures and uses on the property.

The landowners of Shiloh Farm lent me a survey of the property, but didn’t want me to draw on it. So even though I was worried, I brought a blank copy of the survey with no plans drawn. I also didn’t fill out the Walk-Through application well, because it didn’t contain anything related to beehives. I just filled out the top part with name, address and phone number and left the rest blank.

I got to the Zoning and Development Review offices right at 8:00 a.m. so I didn’t have to wait in line. The entire process took about 40 minutes. It didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t drawn the proposed location of my beehives on the survey, or that I hand’t completed the application. The employee at the zoning counter photocopied my survey, then pulled up the location of the farm on Google Maps to talk through the location together. He was concerned about the flyaway zones for the hives. Flyaway zones need to be 6 feet tall in every direction when the hives are 20 feet or closer to a property line. He was able to confirm the flyaway zones I described based on Google Maps street view. We were good to go!

But then, we ran into a hiccup. We were both under the impression that hives needed to be at least 10 feet from a property line. This is the case, unless your property line is next to the street. Shiloh Farm is on a corner lot, so the hives need to be 30 feet from the property line. We were able to work together to find a new location for the hives, so I was in compliance with all parts of the code. Check.

The Walk-Through Application includes a section about Certificate of Occupancy. I didn’t have this information on me, but the employee looked it up and printed out what we needed.

Next I went down the hall with my survey (which included the hive location drawn to scale), along with the other information the zoning employee had printed for me. At a walk-up window in the hallway, a staff person checked for any existing records or violations on the property. There were none. Then I was sent further down the hall to the Department of Permits, LIcenses and Inspections. This is where I received my permit! After paying my $70, of course.

Now that I have my permit, I will be setting up my beehives (I’m moving already established hives to the farm). To complete the zoning process, I have to call my assigned inspector listed on my permit once the hives are in place. He will verify they’re in the location approved on my application. If all goes well, I will receive my certificate in the mail.

I was definitely nervous to go through this process. Even though it’s supposed to be easier than before, I was worried I’d still run into red tape. That was not the case at all! Every person I worked with was helpful and I’d say the process was easy. Hopefully you have the same experience!