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The Bedford County Planning Commission voted unanimously last week, at its Tuesday night regular meeting, to send a proposed chicken ordinance to the board of supervisors.
The ordinance will allow people to keep a limited number of chickens for personal use in residential neighborhoods.
There was some debate between District 4 planning commission member Frederic Fralick and District 5 planning commission member Jerry Craig over the number of chickens to be allowed. The language the planning commission originally approved late last year sets the limit at 18 chickens. Fralick argued that 18 is too many and suggested the limit be lowered to 12. Craig, however, replied that 12 would not consistently produce enough eggs for a family’s use and preferred to leave the limit at 18. The planning commission agreed.
District 2 planning commission member Jeff Burdett noted that the ordinance does not define the size of a chicken coop and suggested that allowing people to build an auxiliary structure with no defined maximum size could be abused. The planning commission accepted Burdett’s suggestion and limited coop sizes to 80 square feet and put a minimum height for the fence that will surround the coop to four feet. The commission also chose to require a no-fee zoning permit. This permit will not cost the homeowner, but will give county staff the opportunity to explain the backyard chicken rules. This will keep a homeowner from finding out he’s in violation of the county ordinance after he already has his chickens. The permit will be issued on the spot and won’t require the homeowner to make a second trip to the county planning office.
The ordinance does not allow roosters.
Tracy Ellet was the only speaker at the public hearing held on the subject. She spoke in favor of backyard chickens as her family wants to have some. After the meeting, Ellet said that she wants the chickens because one of her young sons wants to be a veterinarian and she believes getting involved with raising chickens will be a good experience for him.
The chicken ordinance will go on to the county’s supervisors, who will have the final say on the matter.
The planning commission, at last week’s meeting, also took the opportunity to honor Lynn Barnes. Barnes had represented District 2 on the planning commission from 2005 until his resignation last fall.