The Board of Aldermen met Tuesday night to discuss changes to the town code regarding livestock. The current code requires any property holding fowl or rabbits to be at least 10,000 square feet, and no barn, cage or pen to be more than 15 feet away from the property line or street right-of-way line.
Trish McGuire, planning director for the town, said the town is looking into changing the code after the Animal Control Board found two residents who violated the square foot requirement.
Alderman Michelle Johnson said the 10,000 square foot requirement isn’t a set standard for all properties and doesn’t know where it came from.
“Since we couldn’t figure out where it came from, we probably need to change it,” Johnson said.
Alderman Damon Seils said not using the lot size requirement is a good idea.
“Taking out the lot size minimum requirement would allow people who want to have chickens have them,” he said.
Seils also suggested allowing residents who only want a few chickens to do so without having a permit or have a 10-chicken-per-residence cap.
“It reduces the enforcement burden,” he said. “I’m all for few rules here. Just require that you not be a nuisance and not be a danger to public health.”
Alderman Sammy Slade said using a simple standard of lot size per chicken might be more efficient and fair.
“Essentially 10 square feet for the chicken for the run and 4 square feet per chicken for the coop,” Slade said. “We want to make sure that people are keeping their chickens humanely.”
Alderman Bethany Chaney said the town needs to be able to keep track of the number of fowl in the town.
“I think we want to be able to gauge if there is some type of critical mass of chickens in town,” she said.
Johnson said allowing chickens to run free draws in predators, leading to a public safety concern.
“They run around the neighborhood and they are a draw for predators, like raccoons, cats and foxes,” Johnson said.
Town attorney Michael Brough pointed out another requirement for livestock — fowl must be kept on the residential property for the owners’ consumption and use only.
“Consumption is for those who reside on that lot,” Brough said.
This includes the consumption of not only the chicken but also the animal’s eggs.
“So if my neighbor has eggs, she would be in violation if she gave them to me,” Chaney said.
The board unanimously passed a motion to have staff strike the required lot size of 10,000 feet and explore other ways of using setbacks.
“We have to think about how to keep the chickens healthy and the people healthy,” Johnson said.