Zoning law change will allow more people in Dubuque to access affordable, nutritious, locally-grown food

City leaders say more greenhouses will move Dubuque towards eliminating food deserts
Dubuque city council members voted unanimously to change a zoning law that would allow more people to start their own greenhouses.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:15 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -More people in Dubuque will now have the opportunity to grow fresh produce year round after after city council members voted unanimously to approve a zoning change to allow people to build commercial greenhouses on properties in more parts of the city.

Before the change, greenhouses could only be built in commercial properties in mostly residential districts, which are zoned C1, but now, properties in more commercially driven areas, like John F. Kennedy Road and downtown Dubuque, can also start their own greenhouses. Those are zoned C-2, C-2A, C-3, C-4 and CS.

Michaela Freiburger, chair of the Dubuque County Food Policy Council, this change will help address food insecurity and eliminate “food deserts”.

”We have two of them, pretty large territories, specifically one in downtown Dubuque and one is up on the top of the hill up in the Fenelon Place Elevator area,” she mentioned.

Food deserts are places with limited access to affordable, nutritious food. Freiburger said more greenhouses mean more locally-grown produce year-round, which fits into a community goal for more food grown in Dubuque according to the city’s Imagine Dubuque 2037 plan.

”While it may be on commercial properties to start, this is a great place for our institutions and other commercially zoned properties to really start to take heed and get people activated around local foods,” Freiburger added.

ReEvolution Farms, a business focused, in part, in growing sustainable produce in an urban environment, has already moved towards starting its own greenhouse. Owners Korrin and Sean Schriver said that is something they could not do before because of zoning issues.

”It (their indoor space) zones C2, which would not allow for growing produce,” Korrin explained. “You could process, have a restaurant, things like that, but you cannot actually grow it in C2.”

The Schrivers said they were one of many who reached out to the city to ask them to change the zoning law so they could start their own greenhouses. On Wednesday, they showed TV9 around their new space in Central Avenue, where they expect to soon start their greenhouse with that zoning change in place.

“We are hoping that, through our endeavors, we inspire other people that the zoning no longer restricts them and they could possibly start more sustainable year round food production within the city of Dubuque,” Korrin commented.

The re-zoning and new space also allows ReEvolution Farms to expand their programming and work with more students in the Dubuque area to teach them about growing sustainable produce. The Schrivers said their goal is to, eventually, create internships for students centered around this idea.

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