Urban Farm in Des Moines Runs Into Roadblock of County Regulations

Lee Rood reported last week at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Spring planting is underway inside the greenhouse at Dogpatch Urban Gardens, marking what should be the most hopeful time of year for owners of Des Moines’ only urban farm.

“But when Eric and Jenny Quiner talk about all the changes they have to make this year on their acre lot on Meredith Drive to stay in business, the strain is palpable.

“‘The stress has almost been the biggest hardship in all of this,’ Eric Quiner said, his voice quivering.”

The Register article explained, “A March meeting may tip the scale on whether the couple’s two-year-old business ultimately succeeds or fails. That’s when Polk County’s Board of Adjustment will weigh in after planning and development staffers determined the Quiners’ new building amounts to a commercial storefront, not just a farm stand.

With that change comes a mix of building, landscaping, health and safety requirements for the Quiners that they say have necessitated spending about $75,000 more than expected.”

Last week’s article noted, “As bootstrap urban farm businesses and nonprofits have sprouted up around the country in urban centers, some have run afoul of local requirements guiding everything from food sales to water runoff to building codes.

“Some cities and counties in recent years have enacted urban farming ordinances or zoning codes because the operations don’t neatly fit into regulations for residential, commercial or agricultural land.

“Boise, Idaho, Denver and Kansas City, Mo., have made urban farming a permitted land use. As yet, Des Moines and Polk County have not.”

The Register article also stated that, “The unplanned costs and changes forced the Quiners to take out a second mortgage and appeal for help from supporters with a Kickstarter campaign.

“Thus far, supporters have invested more than $21,000 to help them succeed.

“Still, Eric and Jenny say the stress of having their infrastructure costs double has weighed heavily on them. It’s even strained their marriage.”

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