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June 23, 2011
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City of Chicago Approves Commercial Rooftop Farms

The GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan recommendsthat local zoning ordinances be synchronized with current development goals. While many comprehensive municipal plans throughout the region have goals consistent with GO TO 2040, zoning ordinances -- shaped through years of ad hoc modifications -- are often inconsistent with local and regional goals.

One such example has been the existence of local ordinances from many decades ago that discouraged or prevented residents and businesses from growing produce. GO TO 2040 points out that, with more than nine percent of our region's population residing in food deserts -- areas without nearby retail outlets that carry fresh food -- providing support for the local production can help improve access to fresh, nutritious food, while also contributing to job creation and a sustainable, "green" economy.

The City of Chicago is currently emphasizing the promotion of local food and elimination of food deserts. In June, Chicago amended a zoning ordinance to facilitate the establishment of for-profit rooftop farms downtown. There had been no regulations or licenses that allowed rooftop farmers to sell their produce prior to this amendment, according to a Chicago Journal article written shortly before the legislation was passed. Additionally, the ordinance allows restaurants to operate their own farms. Rooftop farms are a step towards GO TO 2040's recommendation to create a self-sustaining market for local food. Additionally, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently convened CEOs from large food companies to address the city's food deserts, which he discussed with ABC 7.


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