Land Use Committee
February 9, 2011Council Present:
7:00 – 7:57 a.m.
Chair, Cynthia Pratt, Tom Nelson, Virgil Clarkson
Greg Cuoio, Scott Spence, Dave Burns, Troy Woo, Rick Walk, Ken Ahlf, Carol LittenDEPUTY MAYOR CLARKSON MOVED TO APPROVE THE AGENDA. MAYOR NELSON SECONDED. MOTION CARRIED.
Urban Farmers (Poultry)
Rick Walk, Community Development Director, stated that in response to a citizen request regarding zoning amendments that would allow raising chickens on urban lots, staff researched the issue.
Lacey’s code prohibits the keeping of chickens and similar types of fowl and animals on urban sized lots. This approach was adopted in the early 1980s as part of a Thurston Regional zoning model. However, as times have changed, communities are now developing ordinances to accommodate the public’s growing interest in food sustainability, including the keeping of urban chickens. On average, 3-5 chickens is adequate for personal use.
The keeping of chickens, if not managed appropriately, can have impacts to adjacent land uses when lots are small and there is not land area to properly accommodate the use. Impacts expected with improper management would typically include a rooster crowing in early hours, lack of maintenance and clean-up of waste, or allowing chickens to free range food on neighbor’s property which results in chickens digging in flower gardens or messing in the neighbor’s yard.
The recent request for amendment of the code to permit a limited number of chickens to be kept for personal use would essentially codify the approach staff has used to allow reasonable use of property while considering its intent to avoid land use conflicts. Provisions could be developed to protect the City’s interest in maintaining harmony within residential areas while allowing citizens the opportunity to keep chickens for personal use.
Such an amendment would allow more opportunity for self sufficiency and promote objectives for a more sustainable community. It would also move the City forward towards new approaches that integrate urban gardening/farming concepts in urban planning.
The issue of urban chickens raises a discussion of food production and the benefits of providing opportunity for citizens to grow their own food in an urban setting. The American Planning Association is currently in production of a Planning Advisory Service (PAS) report that reviews this issue; “Urban Agriculture; Growing Healthy Sustainable Places.” Staff recommends this issue as an appropriate topic for Planning Commission consideration.
Ken Ahlf, City Attorney, noted that requests for keeping a limited number of chickens in urban areas without impact on adjacent properties has been allowed. Poultry kept for agricultural uses are limited to one acre or more.
The Committee discussed the parameters for keeping chickens, including lot sizes, number of chickens, site locations, and zoning densities. Concerns were expressed about noise, odor, groundwater quality issues, overproduction and commercial marketing in residential areas, and more aggressive fowl, such as peacocks, ducks and geese.
Questions were raised about whether neighborhood covenants which restrict chickens on urban lots could be enforced if the City’s code allows it. Ken responded there is a general provision in the code to comply with whichever regulation is stricter.
A suggestion was made to clarify the intent of the code to prevent nuisances, noise, odor and health hazards. Once defined, the code can then be enforced.
Staff recommends forwarding this topic to the Planning Commission for further review and public hearing. MAYOR NELSON MOVED TO FORWARD THE TOPIC OF URBAN CHICKENS TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION FOR REVIEW. DEPUTY MAYOR CLARKSON SECONDED. MOTION CARRIED.