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Playing chicken


The city council looks for a compromise with urban agriculture and the desire for city residents to own and raise chickens.

Tim Farley January 22nd, 2014

Oklahoma City Councilwoman Meg Salyer is trying to please chicken-lovers and everyone else.

Recently, the Oklahoma City Council rejected a proposal that would have allowed any resident to raise six backyard chickens without any special conditions and regardless of lot size. The measure failed 7-2 during the Dec. 31 meeting, with Salyer joining five other councilmen and Mayor Mick Cornett in their opposition.

City ordinances currently allow chickens on lots of one acre or more.

Salyer voiced concern that residents who object to backyard chickens should have a public forum to air their grievances. As a result, Salyer was scheduled to introduce a measure at the Jan. 21 meeting that allows citizens who want backyard chickens to apply for a special exception to the existing ordinance.

The five-member Board of Adjustment, which meets the first and third Thursday of each month, will decide each case. An application and a $25 fee will be part of the process. Protests from neighbors will be considered as board members review each application, Salyer said.

“I think it’s a good idea that there’s a permit fee because it puts some skin in the game for those who want backyard chickens.” Typically, special exception cases cost $750, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said. However, those fees will be waived.

Said Salyer, “It will operate more like a rezoning case. There will be a notice mailed to residents within 300 feet of the applicant.”

Longtime Ward 4 councilman and attorney Pete White doesn’t expect neighbors’ objections will have much impact on the board’s decisions.

“My guess is if it (the application) meets the criteria, the Board of Adjustment is bound to approve it,” he said. “I think there needs to be some type of compromise on this deal.”

White and Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid favored the backyard chicken measure at a Dec. 31 meeting.

Salyer’s proposal will include all of the earlier provisions councilmen considered, including a maximum of six hens but no roosters. Outdoor slaughter of the birds is prohibited.

The measure will be sent to the Planning Commission for its recommendation on Feb. 27, followed by a public hearing at the council level March 18 and possible adoption on April 1. If approved, the ordinance would be effective May 2.

Other cities
Urban agriculture practices are a growing trend in Oklahoma. In Tulsa, backyard chickens and roosters are allowed on all city lots without the permit requirement. The Tulsa ordinance allows six adult hens and 14 chicks under 8 weeks old. In city neighborhoods, the creatures must be kept in a building or pen that is no closer than 50 feet from an adjoining residence.

Two OKC metro cities — Norman and Mustang — allow chickens in any zoning district without a permit.

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Animal raising for personal use › Lots must be at least one acre to raise, feed or breed farm animals.

› On five acres or less, one horse, donkey, mule, cow, bull, heifer or steer is allowed per each half-acre.

› One sow, boar hog, three barrows or gilts per acre on five-acre parcels.

› No roosters or enclosures can be closer than 400 feet to any dwelling, church, school or business on adjacent properties.

Source: Oklahoma City Ordinance


 
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