Chandler takes a step toward backyard chickens OK - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler takes a step toward backyard chickens OK

September 28th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler takes a step toward backyard chickens OK
Community
14

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Rene Lopez’s time on the Chandler City Council is winding down and he’s hoping to cross off at least one more item on his “to do” list before his term ends in January.

He wants Chandler residents to have the same right as nearly every other city in the Valley to raise chicken hens in their backyards. It appears a divided Council will do that by the end of this year.

“I’d like to get this done, because it’s been postponed and kicked down the road for the last several years,” Lopez said. “It’s about liberty, allowing people to do what they want in their own backyards.”

Council met in a work session on Sept. 19 to hash out possible changes to city ordinances that would allow residents to own backyard chickens. It appears at least four members of council are strongly in favor, one against, and two others want more information.

Members supporting for the change were Lopez, Mark Stewart, Vice Mayor Terry Roe and Mayor Kevin Hartke. Matt Orlando appeared to be opposed while OD Harris and Christine Ellis indicated they wanted more information.

According to the timeline provided by city staff, the change in ordinances will first go to Planning and Zoning in October and then be presented to the Council in November. A final vote will happen at the council’s December meeting.

Here’s the direction that council members gave city staff:

• Chickens will be allowed in backyards. This will impact traditional homes that are not part of a homeowners association, since most of them ban chickens.

•  No roosters will be allowed.

• Homeowners will not need a permit.

• A limit of five was suggested, but Councilman Mark Stewart asked for a sliding scale based on a lot size, with bigger yards allowed more chickens.

• Homeowners would not need their neighbors’ approval to host chickens.

• Staff will look at the setbacks from the property line. Staff had recommended 5 feet, which is what most other cities require. Orlando pushed for more, saying a homeowner who wants chickens should have to deal with the odor and noise more than neighbors. Council asked staff to look at increasing the setback limit to 10 or 15 feet.

Council members remain adamant they do not want Chandler Police Department to handle chicken complaints. A large portion of the 90-minute meeting was dedicated to that issue. Members were told that code enforcement could handle those complaints – and that other cities that allow chickens get very few complaints about chickens.

Large agricultural lots are allowed to have chickens in Chandler. Guy Jaques, the city’s neighborhood services supervisor, said the city received only 37 complaints about chickens in 2021 and only 20 of those were founded. He said the city had 100% compliance after telling residents what they needed to do to not be in violation of city codes.

Jaques also said complaints were up across the board last year, probably because of the pandemic. They don’t usually receive that many.

Other cities had similarly low numbers of chicken complaints, even though every Valley city other than Avondale and Chandler allows backyard chickens in residential neighborhoods.

Phoenix had 304 founded complaints; Mesa had 102; Gilbert 12; Tempe 16.

Jaques said the code department could handle an increase in chicken complaints.

“We’ve talked about it, we’ve thought about it, and we absolutely have the capacity to enforce chicken complaints,” Jaques said. “We don’t feel we’re going to be overburdened with chicken complaints.”

Jaques said code enforcement plans to start a pilot program to have an inspector available on Saturdays to handle some weekend complaints. That was one of the criticism opponents pointed to, that inspectors don’t work weekends. Leah Powell, the city’s neighborhood resources director, said the pilot program would likely last months and they will see if there is enough work to justify the scheduling change.

More than 71% of city residents live in a HOA, so the change in chicken laws will likely not impact them. Most of the neighborhoods that do not live in a HOA are in the northern half of the city.

City staff said only 23 residents filled out feedback on backyard chickens on the city website, with 22 in favor. To provide feedback, search for urban chickens ordinance at chandleraz.gov.

Lopez urged his colleagues to move forward with the process.

“I can appreciate reservations,” Lopez said. “But again, we’re not making a decision here to pass chickens. The only decision is to give staff direction.”

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