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Livingstone’s urban farm gets thumbs up from planning board

Livingstone College’s plan for an urban farm got back on track Tuesday when the city’s planning board approved recommendation of a special use permit for the proposed site.

Plans call for the farm to be located off Locke Street, between Brenner Avenue and Grace Street, on property owned by Livingstone College. The special use permit covers 32 acres, but plans call for the initial farm to be less than 4 acres — just 400 feet by 400 feet.

The board’s vote was unanimous. The next step in the process is for City Council to vote on the permit, which should take place at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Tuesday’s public hearing on the farm was supposed to happen at the board’s meeting in early November, but a scheduling mix-up resulted in the board voting to delay the hearing.

Salisbury resident Joe Fowler, who is consulting Livingstone on the farm, testified to the board during the hearing. Before the 1960s, he said, the  proposed site was a farm, and crops grown there fed Livingstone’s students.

Fowler said the farm will have livestock: chickens, rabbits and goats. The animals will be fenced in, he said, adding the farm should end up providing produce for the college’s culinary school.

The board set one condition with its approval: livestock production can not expand outside of the initial 3.6-acre site without approval from the city.

Fowler said having livestock on the farm will not result in any foul odor that will bother the surrounding neighborhoods since the numbers of animals will be relative low.

Site plans also show the farm will have vineyards, vegetables, and “high tunnels,” which Fowler said are similar to green houses. An area on the farm will be set aside for composting, too.

As for the area outside the farm, Fowler said there will be some reforesting done. — earlier this year the land was cleared. Landscaping and a walking trail are also on the agenda, he said.

Fowler said he couldn’t think of any negative impacts the farm could have on the community.

Planning Board member Randy Reamer, half-joking, said “I can’t see a safety problem unless the goats get out.”

Fowler said the farm will have a “tremendous educational component.” A farm headquarters with a training center is included in the site plans.

Plans for the farm have been in the works for months, and the city has been accommodating. It’s amended its land use ordinance to include language about urban farms.

Since urban farming is unprecedented in the city limits under the current land development ordinance, the Planning Board recommended a special use permit be approved by city council for most urban farming practices.

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