Chickens could come to roost soon in Chandler - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chickens could come to roost soon in Chandler

November 6th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chickens could come to roost soon in Chandler

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

There were multiple warnings to residents attending the Oct. 19 Chandler Planning & Zoning Commission meeting: Yes, chickens were on the menu, um, agenda, but what commissioners could consider was very limited.

“So before you start, Lauren, with your presentation, I just want to make a note to the audience,” Chairman Rick Heumann said. “That what is the commission’s purview tonight is really basically laying out what the definition of a chicken coop is. The fact that having chickens or not having chickens will be the purview of the mayor and the council.”

Senior planner Lauren Schumann gave the same warning. So did a member of the city attorney’s staff.

So while there appeared to be more than a dozen citizens in the audience opposed to backyard chickens, commission members were not going to decide that issue.

It will be up to City Council to decide if Chandler will join most of the cities in the Valley in allowing backyard chickens in residential areas. That vote is expected at its Nov. 10 meeting. It will likely be discussed at the Nov. 7 study session.

Councilmember Rene Lopez, whose term ends Jan. 12, pushed for the city to address this issue. According to city staff, only Chandler, Avondale and Glendale do not allow chickens on residential lots. Chandler does allow chickens on large lots that are zoned for agriculture.

There was an attempt to allow backyard chickens in 2013. The P&Z Commission then recommended adopting the change, but it was ultimately voted down at the City Council on a 4-3 vote.

Staff decided the best way to change city ordinances this time was to change the code under animals, not buildings. Therefore, it basically took the issue out of Planning & Zoning’s hands.

The one area where P&Z would still be involved is chicken coops. Anyone who wants to put chickens in their backyards must have one. So commissioners worked out their definition for a coop and what it would mean for residents to build one.

Here is what they decided:

• The coop must be at least 5 feet from the edge of the homeowner’s property. This is to provide a buffer to neighbors.

• A chicken coop would not count as an accessory building so long as it is not too large. This is similar to how the city considers small tool or storage sheds. Any coop that exceeds 7 feet in height, or a 120 square feet in size, would be considered an accessory building and would require a permit to build. Residents are allowed only one accessory building on their property.

• Runways for the chickens would be considered part of the coop, so they will count against the 120 square feet limit.

• Most of the discussion among the commissioners was about coops that are taller than the fences that separate properties. They decided to recommend that coops could not be taller than the fence line. If they are, then they would be considered an accessory building.

Heumann pushed for this change to what staff had recommended, saying neighbors don’t want to see chicken coops. Two commissioners voted against his revision, saying it might be unfair to people who have a 4-foot tall fence.

“If I lived next to them, I don’t want to have to look at them, and that’s my point,” Heumann said.

Commissioner Michael Quinn pointed out most neighborhood fences are about 6-foot tall and that by adopting the change it creates different rules for different neighbors.

Planning Administrator Kevin Mayo said the change would also add challenges to enforcement. Currently any structure that exceeds 7 feet would require a permit. This change would mean some coops below 7 feet would need a permit, but it would depend on the height of their fence.

Schumann, the senior planner, said the city has been collecting feedback on backyard chickens starting in June. Most of the feedback came in via the city’s website. There were 185 comments submitted and 130 were in favor of backyard chickens, Schumann said. Only 39 were against.

She also showed a map where those people lived.

“As you can see, we’ve had an overwhelming support for backyard chickens within North Chandler in the non HOA subdivision,” Schumann said.

South Chandler resident Les Minkus spoke against allowing backyard chickens. More than a dozen people gave up their time so Minkus could speak in depth about why the group opposes allowing backyard chickens in Chandler. Usually, residents only get three minutes to make their case. Heumann gave Minkus 15 minutes.

“As you know, this is deja vu for me because it was nine years ago at this time that I stood in front of this chamber and argued the same situation, that the city does not have the interest, and the voters do not have the interest in having backyard chickens,” Minkus said.

He said allowing chickens on smaller properties is not a good idea.

“You got a substantial, terrible nuisance that is going to be created for neighbors and others around them,” Minkus said.

He argued backyard chickens will make too much noise, disturbing their neighbors. He said there are many examples of chickens escaping the backyards and getting into neighborhoods. They also attract predators, like hawks, coyotes, and racoons.

Minkus said they are a health risk because many can become infected with bird diseases that might migrate to humans. He also argued it was putting more work on the code enforcement department.

City councilmembers were clear, they do not want the police to deal with chicken complaints, it would be up to code enforcement. Chicken opponents have argued code enforcement is struggling to fulfill its current mission, and adding another major item like chicken enforcement would make matters worse.

Shumann said that the experience of other Valley cities that allow backyard chickens is that there are relatively few complaints about them.

Minkus said they have collected more than 300 signatures on a petition to keep backyard chickens out of Chandler.

He also argued that the current Council should not be deciding a controversial issue, pointing out two new members will be joining on Jan. 12. Angel Encinas and Jane Poston will be sworn in on that date, replacing Lopez and Vice Mayor Terry Roe.

“It would not be fair to residents for them to go out, spend a lot of money on coops and everything, just to have the next Council possibly reverse the decision,” Minkus said.