Changes in store for backyard chickens legislation

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(Posted Nov. 10, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London city officials are taking another look at proposed legislation to allow residents to raise chickens on their properties.

Some of the rules set out in the original proposal are:
• a maximum of six chickens on lots up to a quarter-acre; a maximum of 10 chickens on larger lots;
• no roosters and no free-range chickens;
• permits will be issued for single-family residences only;
• chickens cannot be housed in the home, on porches or attached garages;
• they must be housed in an enclosure that allows one square-foot per chicken and is shielded from street view;
• waste must be bagged and disposed of; it cannot be piled and stored;
• eggs cannot be sold;
• those who violate the rules will be guilty of a minor misdemeanor on the first offense and a fourth-degree misdemeanor for subsequent violations; and
• anyone wishing to keep chickens on their property must pay a one-time $50 permit fee.

After discussion at the Nov. 5 council meeting, council member Andy Hitt, sponsor of the legislation, planned to take the proposal back to committee for further review. Several changes are likely.

Council member Anthony Smith suggested issuing fines for violations instead of misdemeanors. He also suggested a smaller annual permit fee, rather than a larger one-time fee.

When Mayor Patrick Closser brought up the idea of having permit-seekers secure permission from their neighbors, Smith said he didn’t like the idea of giving people the authority to tell others what they can or cannot do. He and council member Josh Peters noted that such sign-offs are not required for any other kind of animal kept on property in the city.

Several council members also want to know who would be responsible for checking for violations and/or responding to complaints. Questions came up regarding the amount of time the city’s zoning code enforcement officer would have to address such issues.

Hitt plans to bring an amended version of the proposed ordinance back before council at the Nov. 19 meeting. Council meetings take place at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St. Video recordings of the meetings are posted to the city website, www.londonohio.gov. The meeting time is 6:30 p.m.

Prior to council’s discussion on the matter on Nov. 5, three residents spoke in favor of the city allowing backyard chickens. Meghan and Michael Murphy moved to the city last year. They built a coop on their property on Arlington Avenue, assuming chickens were allowed because London is situated in a rural area.

When they found out three months ago that their chickens violate city law, the Murphys reached out to city adminstrators and council members. They circulated a petition and secured more than 240 signatures. They also created a website, poultryprotectors.org, and a Facebook page where they share their story and their reasons for pursuing legislation. They also invite anyone to visit their set-up.

Meghan Murphy said she and her husband raise chickens for the fresh eggs and to be self-sustaining. They feed their food scraps to the chickens, diverting waste from landfills. They till the chickens’ waste into their garden.

Cori Sinclair, who moved to London in 2016, also spoke in favor of backyard chickens. She said she bought her property on Lafayette Street with the intention of raising chickens on it. Like the Murphys, she said she was surprised to learn the city did not permit residents to raise chickens.

She has researched backyard chicken laws in nearby cities who permit them, including Hilliard, Gahanna and parts of Columbus. She said many ideas and solutions are available to address concerns anyone might have.

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