Garden Permits

Garden Permits

Would you like to turn an empty lot into a productive flower or vegetable garden?  Are you interested in changing an unused parcel of land from ‘abandoned’ to ‘cared for’? If the answer is yes, we encourage you to apply for a Garden Permit. There is a growing national movement that involves residents at the local level to create attractive green spaces. It’s a healthy activity that also improves the health of our communities. In many instances, caring for vacant lots has proven to be the starting point for homeowners to increase the value and security of their collective neighborhoods, to improve the safety of their residents, and to encourage growth and opportunities in their area.   

There are many vacant lots in Rochester, maybe next door to your home or just down the street, and a large percentage of them are available to you through the City’s Garden Permit program. 

Garden Permits are issued annually for approved City-owned vacant lots. Permit holders must be 18 years of age or older. The applicant may be an individual, a group of volunteers, a neighborhood based agency or community group. Click here for more information about a one-year Garden Permit. 


There is no charge.

Terms and Conditions 

Get started with your garden project by submitting your Garden Permit application to the Office of the NSC Director.  The application will be quickly reviewed to determine the status of the requested lot, including (but not limited to) ownership, if the site is on hold for a City program or project, and restrictions due to known subsoil conditions, easements or lease agreements, etc.  If the lot you have chosen is not available, you will be notified and you may request an alternate location.  After your application is approved, you will have a permit for the current growing season.  To assist you, this link contains mapping of all City Owned Property, and can help you do a search of City-owned vacant lots in the vicinity of your home (or whatever you would like to use as your ‘center’). 

It is important for permit holders to understand the responsibilities and time commitment necessary to plan, establish and properly maintain the site.  Following are two of the more important ones:  no permanent structure can be installed on the lot and vegetables or fruits must be grown in raised beds only.  Gardening guidelines must be followed to ensure acceptable aesthetic and sanitary conditions for neighboring homes and community.  Details of these and other conditions can be found in the first portion of the Garden Permit, entitled ‘Terms and Provisions’.

Garden permits are temporary agreements only, valid from March 1 through December 15, and cannot be carried over to the next year.  Permit holders may renew by submitting a new application on an annual basis; first rights of refusal for any particular lot are given to the previous year’s permit holder.  Click here for more information to fill out an application for a one-year Garden Permit. You must scan it back in and attach it to an e-mail for submission to or send the hard copy to the Office of the NSC Director, City Hall – Rm 223B, 30 Church Street, Rochester, NY   14614.


If you have further questions about the Garden Permit, please contact the Office of the NSC Director at 585-428-6807 or via e-mail at .



Note:  Five year garden license agreements are now available for community organizations/non-profits who have held a garden permit for three consecutive seasons without complaint or citation and can be accessed below.