Cities can enlist citizens, companies and non-profit groups to adopt, manage or put vacant lots to community uses such as gardens, stormwater management and playgrounds.
Benefits & Problems Addressed
Put vacant or unused lots as a community asset: Setting up a program with recommendations helps put underused and derelict property to use as a community point of pride.
Short term leases easier to manage than ownership transfers: Leasing space requires fewer legal steps than all out transfer of ownership.
Wider use for any vacant lot: Steps in a toolkit can also be used as a resource for projects on other public and privately owned land,
Tips & Techniques
Getting started: Start with maps of vacant lots to determine the extent and location of lots. Work with citizens to prioritize goals for a program and the best uses base on location. For example, vacant lots in floodprone areas might be best re-used for rain gardens.
Process: Establish clear, easy-to-follow steps (see flow chart below). At a minimum notify adjacent neighbors.
Pre-Approval: Cities may want to streamline permitting for simple, common uses, and/or clear sites that pass soil tests.
Managing Uses: Different uses require different processes. For example, any food grown requires soil testing for urban contaminants. If growing food, pre-think how food distributed (own use, donations, for sale).
Co-programming with other Departments: For rain gardens, check with Public Works or Stormwater to see if they have rules and/or performance standards to qualify for regulatory credits. Consider sites for public art (installations & programs). Partner with Master Gardeners and local landscape architects for help with site design.
Hot Buttons: Insurance requirements, unexpected property sale, animal-keeping, noise from community activity.
Image: Flickt/Mark Hogan