Chickens could be coming home to roost in residential Lebanon

City Council may override Planning Commission to permit chickens in residential districts

Lebanon City Council will consider a zoning code amendment and other related administrative rules that would allow the keeping of chickens within the city limits at its Tuesday meeting.

All chickens and barnyard fowl are currently regulated as livestock in the city zoning code and are only permitted in the rural residential (R-R) zoning district.

The city Planning Commission voted 3-1 at its Sept. 20 meeting to not recommend any changes to the current code and restrictions to council.

But a Lebanon Citizens Committee had already been organized to discuss text amendments involving chickens. The committee, led by Beth Levering, met on July 7 and July 20 and discussed a variety of topics on the matter.

Council held a public hearing and gave the proposed change a first reading at its Oct. 11 meeting. A final vote will be at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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The topics the Citizens Committee reviewed included a survey, Homeowners Association regulations, code enforcement, the need to update the code to allow the keeping of chickens for a food source, as well as education. At the July 20 meeting, the committee reviewed the survey results, which were published on social media. Of the 163 responses, 74.2% were in favor of permitting chickens within the city.

One resident, Paula Cramer, said she is against the proposed change and that council should go out and talk to residents. Cramer said a majority of the Planning Commission voted to deny the change.

“Just because it’s a movement and just because other cities have this, doesn’t mean we have to have it,” she said.

Former councilman Joe Shafer and his daughter Clara, voiced their support of the ordinance. She told council she is raising 23 chickens. Joe Shafer said this is one small thing the city can give rights to citizens, saying the process teaches responsibility to children.

Proposed rules

Currently, all city homeowner associations (HOAs) ban backyard chickens. If the city allowed backyard chickens in the future, each HOA would have the option to allow backyard chickens, according to the committee.

The committee recommended to council that no roosters be permitted, only hens. There would be a limit of six chickens per property and up to 12 on lots of one acre or more.

No chickens would be allowed in the Central Business District zone, and chickens would not be allowed at apartments or any other multi-family housing zones, according to the proposed code change.

Chicken coops would have to be in the backyard of single-family residences and contained within the owner’s property boundaries. The city could revoke a homeowner’s right to keep chickens if there were two confirmed property maintenance violations.

Other cities’ examples

Levering recently told council that property maintenance complaints are minimal in other cities to the south where chickens are allowed. Those cities include Cincinnati, Madeira, Glendale, Loveland, Milford, Wyoming, and Montgomery.

Bevan Schenck, director of public affairs at the Ohio Municipal League, said the organization does not track these ordinances across the state, but added it seems to be a trend. He also said there is no state legislation pending on this issue.

Schenck also sits on the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission and said his city approved a similar ordinance.

“I think the question that will always be asked is how will this affect the neighbors,” he said.

The Lebanon committee also considered requiring an application / permit process; lot size and setbacks; prohibitions on slaughtering the chickens; and providing an educational component.

City staff also recommended additions to the zoning amendment, including that chickens shall not roam off the property; and that chickens should always be kept in an enclosure or fenced area in the rear yard at least 20 feet away from property lines. There are recommended regulations on the type of coops that could be used as well.

The proposed code requires residents who want to keep chickens to apply for a zoning permit for an accessory use-chicken coop. Officials said the permit would not allow the permittee to engage in chicken breeding or fertilizer production for commercial purposes.

In its Sept. 20 recommendation to deny recommendation to change the zoning code to permit chickens, the Planning Commission raised concerns about chickens wandering off site onto neighbors’ properties; the upkeep of coops, including odors and disease; and possible neighbor-to-neighbor conflict and property maintenance issues.

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