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Want a Greener City Buffalo? Take it to the Green Code

Hi this is Patience Nimely and Ne’Shay Kennon reporting from the Massachusetts Avenue Project. We are the youth leaders of Healthy Kids Healthy Community (HKHC) Buffalo. HKHC is a partnership that aims to improve policy about healthy eating and active living. We recently attended the Buffalo Green Code unveiling of Buffalo’s Future Land Use Plan? The Green Code is a revision of Buffalo’s land use and zoning policies that will promote investment, create jobs, and improve the urban environment. It’s also a way to create a future development plan that maps the entire city by type of place. The Future Land Use Plan provided a draft of what will become of our city and what they have considered over the past years.

We attended the Buffalo’s Future Land Use Plan at Erie Community College to preview the draft that’s been prepared by the City of Buffalo’s Strategic Planning Department and consultants. The draft includes land use, new zoning, community environment, and future place type. To create the plan the city was divided into neighborhood groups where community residents were able to reflect, ask questions, and give comments about the draft. On Saturday we spoke with Mayor Brown and news reporters about our personal experiences as youth in our communities and our comments on the plan.

We were proud to be a part of the process and to voice our opinions on what matters to us. We found the plan to be a good beginning but it also left out some important points and solutions. We were pleased to find reinvigorating public health as a part of the draft. The plan promotes developing grocery stores in low income areas. It also expressed the allowance of urban agriculture in high-vacancy neighborhoods. But we feel community gardens and urban agriculture should be promoted everywhere, not only can these spaces be used for education and nutrition for the people but they also improve neighborhoods aesthetics and divert water from overwhelming our sewer systems.

The plan implies the temporary support of vacant land to be expanded for further usage. With 23,000 vacant lots and buildings in Buffalo, there are more benefits to developing a percentage of them as urban green spaces with long term land use. The plan talks about colleges and universities but we didn’t see anything about high schools or school zones but there are more than 60,000 teens under 18 years old in Buffalo and we think there should be special guidelines to lessen the amount of liquor stores, fast food restaurants and places selling only unhealthy food in those areas. Also we have to get the places that produce and store toxic chemicals away from where people live, work and play, so we suggest moving them to places away from housing, schools, businesses and recreational areas.

In the future we will try to push for the allowance of market urban farms to establish and maintain a farm stands for the sale of crops grown onsite. We want the city to make transportation less difficult for people of all ages and disabilities. Biking and schooling routes should be well lit and made to be safer. We want to encourage schools to provide healthy foods and corner stores to sell fresh produce but they need help to make that happen. There should be codes to reduce the sales of alcohol and tobacco near high-crime areas, schools and parks. We hope others will join us in talking about the importance of farmers markets, mobile markets, urban farms, and community gardens. We have a full list of what we have submitted to the Green Code Land Use Plan below so please take a look and if you support those things too visit www.buffalogreencode.com and say so! Really it’s important.

MAP/HKHC Green Code Community Health Priorities

Public Health

· Establish more protective housing, development and health codes that address Public Health Issues including mental health, fall prevention, obesity, indoor & outdoor air quality, water quality and environmental health; focus on housing, worksites and schools

· Require developers to provide a mix of housing and development types and affordability levels.

· Use conditional use permits and adopt “deemed approved ordinances” to improve community health through enhanced health standards

· Maintain buffer zones separating industrial or transportation corridors from sensitive areas

· Update building codes to incorporate green building principles, standards, etc.

· Promote increased public space suitable for active & passive recreation

· Restrict approvals for new retailers selling alcohol and tobacco for offsite consumption near high crime areas, schools and parks

· Create healthy school zones (inclusive of allowable uses and restricted uses that promote health habits –limit the amount of unhealthy food sources as a percentage of total commercial activity, provide permit/tax incentives for corner stores to carry healthy food, create districts for community gardens and urban agriculture sites to be centers for learning near schools

Active Living

· Adopt mixed-use residential, commercial and office zoning where appropriate

· Require walking, biking, wheelchair access facilities in all new developments; adopt pedestrian, bike and wheel chair accessible design codes for the city

· Establish parking maximum (vs. minimum) requirements, incentivize permeable parking materials used in new/existing construction

· Ensuring zoning appropriate for existing and potential bicycle and pedestrian routes, and comply with existing Complete Streets Ordinance

· Establish building design codes/guidelines that require parking in the rear of buildings; design codes should promote attractive and well lit store fronts that encourage pedestrian activity and public safety

· Require land setbacks and public access on all new waterfront development activities

Food Access

· Permit for the establishment of grocery stores (and other fresh food vendors) in underserved areas; provide fast track permitting for grocery stores (and other fresh food vendors) in underserved areas

· Identify sites for farmers markets, mobile markets, urban farms and community gardens

· Limit the number of unhealthy food outlets within all residential neighborhoods

· Permit community gardens and urban agriculture as an allowable use in residential and commercial zones

· Permit community gardens, small-scale farms around schools for educational and nutritional purposes

· Community gardens and urban farms should be considered permanent, viable land uses - not temporary land uses-in most zoning districts/categories—not just high vacancy areas

· Urban Farms should be permitted for educational, research and/or commercial crop production purposes

· Allow for market urban farms to establish and maintain farmstands for the sale of crops grown onsite

· Provide incentives to establish urban agriculture production as an option for vacant land and other properties in designated areas

As the youth representatives to the Advisory committee of Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Buffalo we will push to improve and enhance our city for healthy people and a greener future. If you would like to get involved with our groups please contact us at (716)882-5327 ext4 or email us at hkhcbuffaloyouth@gmail.com

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