On August 2nd, 2022, SOFSA submitted the letter below to Syracuse city officials requesting their swift action to implement new zoning ordinances for the city. ReZone Syracuse has been a project of the city’s Planning Division in collaboration with other city departments and a Project Advisory Committee which included several SOFSA members, but stalled in late 2019.

SOFSA’s Policy & Planning Committee jointly crafted the letter and solicited sign-ons from over 25 individuals and 9 organizations to urge prompt adoption of the zoning code based on the important implications for the urban food system.

To join the Policy & Planning Committee or any of SOFSA’s other working groups, visit: www.syrfoodalliance.org/get-involved

Dear Mayor Walsh, Deputy Mayor Owens, and Members of the Syracuse Common Council,

The City of Syracuse has grown and changed exponentially in the past 100 years. Its zoning policies, however, have remained mostly stagnant in this time, often reiterating policies of the past that no longer represent what Syracuse aspires to be.

ReZone Syracuse provides the opportunity to mitigate past harm and to prioritize the health and quality of life of all Syracuse residents. The passage of this ordinance is paramount in enhancing Syracuse’s existing land use regulations and practices. The new zoning regulations have the potential to be instrumental in improving Syracuse’s food system and taking an important step toward relieving its marginalized residents of the burdensome weight of surviving under an unjust food system. Existing zoning ordinances currently on the books have been selectively enforced, leading to potential bias and discrimination.

We applaud the City’s Planning Division and the many, many individuals who have contributed to the formulation of the 246-page document. ReZone could not have come to life without the tireless labor of the City of Syracuse, crucial community meetings, and extensive consultation with experts and organizations. Thanks to these efforts, our city stands at the precipice of instituting this important policy to guide municipal land use for decades to come.

In particular, we the undersigned, celebrate the inclusion of several key changes put in place in the December 2019 Final Draft:

  • Community gardens are granted permission to exist on public lands, in addition to being permitted to sell produce or plants “incidentally”. This change in permissions allows citizens to safely pursue community gardening without fear of legal interference. (Article 3.3 §C6, p. 56)
  • Urban farms are permitted 40,000 square feet of space to grow and sell greens and produce, in addition to maintaining up to six hens on site. The modification to the previous ordinance improves upon and holds the potential to positively impact communities by allowing them to share the fruits of their labor with others. (Article 3.3 §C13, p. 60-61)
  • The keeping of some animals is now a permitted accessory use including in areas zoned residential. Specifically, up to six hens and rabbits may be kept per property with space to range and roam freely in a rear yard and are given limitations as to their coop/hutch standards. Up to five bee colonies are also allowed to be kept as an accessory to the principal use on site, thus allowing communities to clearly benefit from animals’ abilities to positively interact with produce and green growth. (Article 3.4 §D2, p. 68)
  • Food carts and mobile vendors are permitted to operate for up to six months out of the year with limitations as to their location and surrounding areas. Opportunities for growth lie in the enhancement of communities’ abilities to gain zoning permissions to practice on private areas. (Article 3.5 §E4, p. 80-81)

These updated ordinances will greatly enhance the ability of Syracuse residents and proprietors to pursue opportunities that support their wellbeing and livelihoods. Moreover, the delineation of reasonable limitations herein clarifies when issues of health, safety, or nuisance warrant enforcement – mitigating the potential introduction of bias.

After over five years of hard work and revisions, it is time to transition to the implementation stage. The timely integration of these food-related policies alongside those that support affordable housing, access to goods and services, and growth is vital to Syracuse’s future. Yet, after years of waiting, the policy continues to be stalled.

We urge the Mayor’s Office, Common Council, and the Office of Planning to enact the powerful ordinances included within ReZone that will substantially improve citizens’ quality of life.

In order for true equity to exist in Syracuse, it must be clear to all what citizens can and cannot do, what they are entitled to and what rights they hold. The enactment of this new ordinance changes this as to not allow room for misinterpretation, and support neighbors of Syracuse in inevitable zoning conflicts without ambiguity. All of these proposed improvements to quality-of-life merit immense, continued support from stakeholders around the city that want to be a part of building a better Syracuse.

As members of the Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance, we the undersigned speak with one voice to request swift action to at last finalize and implement the critical policies included within ReZone Syracuse.

City of Syracuse Residents

Maura Ackerman, Eastside
Anne Bellows, Eastside
Kayla Brandt, Westside
Sarah Brown, Eastside
Emily Carlson, Eastside
Mary Carney, Eastside
Brandy Colebrook, Southside
Jeremy DeChario, Eastside
Rebecca Garofano, Northside
Avalon Gupta VerWiebe, Eastside
Bela Harris, Eastside
Nicola Kim, Eastside
Jessi Lyons, Valley
Kanischa Miller, Eastside
Jonathan Moe, Eastside
Gayln Murphy-Stanley, Eastside
Aydan Murphy-Stanley, Eastside
Sophie Nash, Eastside
Ella Neville, Eastside
Ellen Pitstick, Eastside
Emilija Postolovska, Lakefront
J. Peyton Sefick, Eastside
Qiana Williams, Downtown
Mable Wilson, Southside
Anna Zoodsma, Eastside

Other Individual Signatories

Caitlin Toomey, Primary Care Physician, Upstate University Hospital

Julia Carboni, Citizenship & Civic Engagement Chair, Syracuse University Maxwell School

Organizational Signatories

Brady Farm
The Food Center @ 324 University Avenue
Greater Syracuse Land Bank
Honeycomb Bakery
Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY
Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment
Syracuse Grows
Syracuse Urban Food Forest Project