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Urban Land Reform Law
Vacant Lot Utilization Act
Whereas 40,000 vacant lots and 700 vacant factories and warehouses within Philadelphia total over 1,000 acres of abandoned resource, and
Whereas the City of Philadelphia has been land banking many of these lots for eventual gentrification, and
Whereas the City of Philadelphia has no short-term plan to utilize most of these lots, and
Whereas this City is Americas second-hungriest large city, 50,000 children are chronically hungry, and 350,000 Philadelphians are unemployed, and
Whereas transfer of these lots to agriculture, particularly orchardry, can teach skills, stimulate related green collar jobs, reduce crime and relieve hunger,
Therefore be it enacted:
The following vacant lands shall be declared Permaculture Zones:
Vacant lots within this Act are those without an occupied dwelling or active commercial building, currently owned by the City of Philadelphia and located within any Philadelphia census tract whose occupied dwellings are more than forty percent (40%) renter occupied.
Permaculture Zones permit the following utilizations of vacant lands:
Any nonprofit agricultural organization incorporated in Pennsylvania may file with the City of Philadelphia their intent to plant and maintain an orchard (fruits, nuts, berries) on any Permaculture Zone vacant lot as defined above. Such organizations may reserve a maximum of twenty-five (25) acres at any one time. A provisional secure tool shed may be placed on the lot.
Any such organization having filed must complete required planting, below, within one month for each acre or less claimed. Six acres, for example, must be planting within six months. Failure to do so transfers authorization to plant to the second organization having filed for that land, and so on.
The nonprofit organization planting the orchard will thereafter receive title to the lot when they have planted dwarf fruit trees and/or nut trees a maximum twelve (12) feet distant from one another upon a minimum seventy-five percent (75%) of that part of the lot which is not shaded by structures more than six (6) hours at winter solstice. Plantings of berries and other edible perennials shall credit toward the required percentage of planted area half that for food trees. During and after planting, the City of Philadelphia will sell water to the organization for agricultural use at wholesale prices.
The organization must covenant to enlarge orchard areas to at least the minimum specified above when insolation expands and to maintain the orchard (watering, weeding, pruning, harvesting). Pest controls by Integrated Pest Management are permitted; toxic spraying is not.
Once title is transferred, the organization may erect permanent structures related to orchards, for tool sheds, greenhousing, harvest storage, food processing, meetings, etc., but these may not occupy more than twenty percent (20%) of the lot. The structures must be situated on the property to minimize shading trees.
Delinquent City of Philadelphia property taxes shall be forgiven. The organization may lease the lot to a neighborhood organization or commercial orchardist consistent with all regulations pertaining in this Act.
Standards above shall be monitored by Pennsylvania Co-operative Extension in conjunction with the Philadelphia Urban Farm Network. Failure to maintain the lot in good order shall cause title to be forfeit and the land available again to the City of Philadelphia, then to next permaculture organization.