MONTREAL, Oct. 17, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Office de consultation publique de Montréal released today the report on the vast consultation held last spring on the state of urban agriculture in Montréal. It is important to note that this is the first time that the right of initiative provided under the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities has been used by citizens. The initiators collected 29,000 signatures requesting the public consultation, which attracted a great deal of attention. Some 1500 people participated in one way or another, via the Office Web site, the one-day exhibition in May, the seminar, or the tour of the boroughs, and the commission received more than 100 briefs and opinions.
Based on the information it received, the commission attempted to complete a profile of urban agriculture initiatives in Montréal, to identify obstacles to the activity's development, and to define development possibilities in tune with Montréal policies. The scope of the urban agriculture phenomenon in Montréal is underestimated. Urban agriculture (UA) involves a great many Montrealers, and meets multiples needs in terms of health, social integration, the fight against poverty, and sustainable development. It should also be noted that the permanent agricultural zone of the Montréal Metropolitan community (MMC) comprises excellent land covering 58% of the territory of the metropolis, and 3% of the territory of the Ville de Montréal.
In general terms, the commission has divided participants' expectations under several major headings: the call for an integrated and broad vision of urban agriculture; the explicit recognition of the role of urban agriculture in municipal land-use planning documents and policies; and the protection of what has been acquired to date, the perpetuation of initiatives, and the structuring of activities.
A broad vision, a choice place in plans and policies
Urban agriculture already occupies a place in many Montréal and MMC plans and policies. The commission suggests that an extra step be taken to consolidate this activity and optimize its benefits to the community. For example, the establishment of the green and blue belt of Greater Montréal provided for in the Plan métropolitain d'aménagement et de développement (PMAD) could include urban nurseries, greening through indigenous food species, and urban orchards. The sections on greening in the borough's urban planning regulations could provide for ground-covering species, vines, trees and bushes that produce vegetables, fine herbs, and fruits. The tree policy and the Canopée 2012-2021 action plan, aiming to increase tree coverage in Montréal, could also include a significant number of fruit trees.
Notably, the commission recommends the use of zoning and regulations as urban agriculture consolidation and development tools. UA should also be included in the measures imposed on real estate complex developers via greening regulations. In other cities, architectural concepts have been known to include terrace gardens, for example.
Practice consolidation and implementation
Having easy access to information about regulations and services already offered by Montréal and the boroughs would often allow Montrealers to carry out their projects. The commission makes several suggestions on that subject and, among other things, the creation of an information base on existing municipal regulations and services.
The commission notes several barriers to the development of gardening practices. These include the lack of ground space, and the precarious nature of the primary facilities and services available. Among other things, the commission recommends that tridimensional spaces be henceforth considered as expansion grounds for urban agriculture, especially roofs and vacant lots. It recommends that the community garden program and collective gardens be treated as a priority, by ensuring no net loss, and even an increase in available spaces owing to container gardening.
Greenhouse crops and markets face regulations and administrative barriers that must be examined in order to promote an increase that is in keeping with municipal needs and aspirations. Providing access to municipal programs identified in the report would also be beneficial.
The importance of protecting surrounding farmland, establishing links, and even making efforts to connect urban agriculture enthusiasts in urban and peri-urban areas, i.e. farmers, gardeners, distributors and consumers, was often underscored. The commission recommended several avenues, based on participants' suggestions.
There is, however, one reservation concerning the raising of chickens and small animals. This issue should be carefully examined, and the concerns of citizens and relevant organizations should be taken into account, as well as experiences in other countries.
Although the recommendations contained in the report are addressed primarily to the Ville de Montréal, it concerns others as well. The contribution of other public bodies will be a determining factor for the future of urban agriculture in Montréal. Government agencies and ministries, the educational community, real estate developers, professional associations, economic groups, and community organizations all bring to the table elements that can foster the advancement of urban agriculture. This is why the commission recommends that the Montréal community establish a formal body to coordinate urban agriculture initiatives, based on existing joint-action initiatives.
All available information on the consultation may be obtained at the office of the OCPM, 1550 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1414. The documentation is also available on the Office Web site, at www.ocpm.qc.ca.
SOURCE: OFFICE DE CONSULTATION PUBLIQUE DE MONTREAL
For further information:
514 977-8365 (Cell.)