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Arnold Considering Lower Land Requirement for Chickens

18 Feb

Thanks in part to local residents who organized via Facebook, the city of Arnold is considering relaxing its current rules on lot size needed for keeping chickens in the city limits, but at the same time tightening other rules. Currently, an Arnoldian must have one acre of land to have chickens, and the city will come do an inspection, but there are no coop regulations.

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The city staff presented a “rough preliminary draft” of a new chicken ordinance at the February 8 work session (video here, chicken discussion starts at the 37 minute mark). Community development director Mary Holden basically said she was throwing this proposal out there to start the discussion and get input from the council, so I won’t blame her too much for the egregious parts of it, although it should be noted that most of the proposals are on the restrictive side compared to other cities in the area.

I don’t have a copy of the full proposal, but the highlights include:

  • minimum of 1/2 acre required
  • 4 bird limit
  • written permission from neighbors required
  • setbacks – 15′ from the property line, 50′ from buildings
  • coop rules – at the meeting they said the rules were similar to what Ellisville and Brentwood have – this would be at least 3-4 square feet per bird in the coop and at least 10 square feet per bird in the outdoor enclosure

The requirement to get permission from the neighbors is clearly an overreach, and one councilman (it is hard to tell who is speaking in the videos) made this point. What other activities on one’s own property require permission from the neighbors? Ellisville has a notification requirement, Glendale requires permission, and Webster Groves lets neighbors comment on the application, but most do not require this. (List of local chicken ordinances here).

Land requirements vary in the area, from 7,500 square feet up to 3-5 acres. I think there’s no reason someone with a regular single-family residential lot should not be able to keep chickens. Some places, like the City of St. Louis have that rule, and for others, 7,500 square feet approximates to the low end of the range of normal-sized lots.

The number of birds that local cities allow ranges from about 4-8, so again the Arnold proposal is on the restrictive side. It is hardly worth it to keep chickens if you only have 4, considering you get 5-6 eggs per week per hen. That’s hardly enough for breakfast for two people. Arnold should allow at least 6 birds, I’d say.

For setbacks, 10 feet from the property line seems to be the most common requirement locally, so Arnold’s proposal is again on the restrictive side.

Arnold council members are going to give their input to city staff, who will come up with another draft proposal. If you live in Arnold and are interested in this issue, now is the time to call your councilman.

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Pevely’s Draconian Chicken Ordinance

26 Sep

The city of Pevely has finally joined the ranks of JeffCo locales that allow backyard chickens, joining Festus and De Soto. However, in typical Pevely fashion, the rules the city has adopted are overly restrictive and, for residents, expensive.

First, Pevely is charging a $100 fee the first year, followed by $25 annual payments thereafter. I can see no reason for this amount, other than to pad city coffers. And in fact, money from the fees will go into the city’s general revenue account, according to the Leader. Any fee that is charged should merely cover administrative costs for the program, which should be minimal.

Second, and probably worst of all, Pevely is requiring written permission from one’s adjoining neighbors before a resident can get a chicken license. What other activity is there, period, that a landowner can do that requires your neighbors’ permission? Not a thing.

Third, Pevely is very specific on coop requirements. It must be at least 6′ x 6′ and 7′ tall. I am quite sure you can buy a coop at Buchheit that is smaller than this that easily accommodates four birds. Coops must also have a window and a door that shuts and locks. We can’t have those chickens sneaking out at night.

The article says chickens and their eggs must not be sold commercially. I assume that this does not include me selling a dozen eggs a week to my neighbor. If this is included in the prohibition, this is also ridiculous.

Two parts of the Pevely ordinance are acceptable. The minimum lot size to keep chickens is only 1/4 acre, and the maximum number of hens is six.

Chickens Continue to Spread

21 Jan

Byrnes Mill has joined the ranks of county municipalities allowing backyard chickens, according to the December 27 Leader. The city joins Festus and De Soto as cities to have recently made this change. Byrnes Mill’s ordinance is pretty good, in that it is light on restrictions. Residents with less than an acre of land can raise five birds, while there is no limit for larger properties. Coops or pens must be used, and must be 20 feet from the plot boundary and in the backyard. A chicken permit costs $25 per year for three years, then becomes permanent, barring any complaints. This is much better than Festus’ stringent rules. I commend the Byrnes Mill council for this.

Festus Chicken Fears Subside Slightly

3 Sep

I wrote here about the unwillingness of the Festus City Council to allow city residents to own chickens. Well, on August 22, the council relented, according to the August 30 Leader, and voted to allow chickens under the following conditions:

  • Half-acre minimum lot size
  • Four chickens maximum
  • No roosters
  • One-time $30 fee
  • Leg bands required
  • Some rules about housing and lot setbacks

I think these rules are too stringent. As I said before, this is Festus, not St. Louis or Chicago. A half-acre is too high of a minimum. The article mentioned that many people have been disappointed, because they want chickens but don’t have that much land. Chickens can be kept on much smaller lots, including your standard city lot.

The leg-banding rule is unnecessary, too. Do they think there will be so many chickens it will be hard to keep track of whose chickens are whose? The city will know who owns chickens, that is info enough.

Also, the 4-bird limit is too low. De Soto instituted a much more sensible 6-bird limit. Especially when Festus’ lot minimum is so high, they could easily allow more chickens.

The council definitely suggested that this is more or less a trial run. Dale Persch, who voted yes, said, “If it doesn’t work, we can get rid of it.” Kathy Murphy, who voted no, said she doesn’t want any raccoons or hawks. Well, if she doesn’t want raccoons, she had better ban trash cans. Besides, when we had coons on our porch, my mama just chased them off with a broomstick. And what’s wrong with hawks?

Tim Montgomery was the other no vote on this ordinance. Keep an eye on this; hopefully now that the residents will get a taste of chickens, they will demand that these rules be loosened up.

Scared of Chickens?

27 May

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the De Soto City Council for their common-sense decision to allow residents to own poultry, as reported in the Dear Leader on May 24. They made this move despite ig’nernt arguments like those from the Lindseys, a couple who told the council that noise from chickens would create a nuisance. This incorrect assumption probably comes from a belief that there will be roosters all over town, when pretty much every city that allows chickens bans roosters, and there is no reason for most urban chicken-owners to possess them. I wonder if the Lindseys want dogs banned in the city, because dog noise is much more of a nuisance than that from chickens.

On the other hand, the city council in Festus tabled the chickens issue recently, and last year Arnold didn’t act on a request from a resident to allow them. The arguments against chickens are rather weak, and they come down to noise, health, and odor, for the most part. I repeat my dog analogy above. Anything you think a chicken does that makes it unsuitable for being raised in city back yards, dogs do to a greater degree (bark, bite, poo, etc.), but nobody seems interested in banning dogs. In fact, Festus Mayor Mike Cage said, according to the May 17 Dear Leader, that “chickens will make the dogs bark.” By that logic, we should ban mailmen, too.

The Festus discussion of chickens also featured a typical aspect of legislation: elected officials dabbling into minutiae, with the intent of writing unnecessarily strict regulations. The Festusians talked about minimum acreage requirements and maximum number of chickens per property. But there were only 3 no votes, compared to 2 yes and 2 abstentions, so the hurdles for potential Festus chicken-owners are not insurmountable. The other no votes were Kathy Murphy, Bobby Venz, and Jim Tinnin. And this was only a vote on whether to continue discussing the issue. Remember these names at election time.

Other locales in the area get it. Ellisville, Shrewsbury, Creve Coeur and Richmond Heights have given chickens the green light this year. Nationally, cities like LA, San Francisco, and Chicago allow chickens. If those places can handle chickens, surely Festus and Arnold can. I encourage residents of these and other Jefferson County cities to keep fighting for chickens. Hopefully De Soto has started a trend.

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