Residents Voice Opinions on Backyard Chickens
At the City Council meeting on Oct. 17, the public was invited to weigh in on the contentious “backyard chicken” regulation debate happening within the city.
The week prior, on Oct. 10, the Planning Commission considered an amendment to further define the regulations for the keeping of livestock or fowl on residential property. According to the meeting summary, Vote 1 recommended approval of the separation of livestock and fowl into two categories. Vote 2 recommended that City Council adopt the current Gwinnett County ordinance as a model for Peachtree Corners. Following its meeting, the Planning Commission withdrew the item from consideration at this time.
The current Gwinnett County ordinance states that chickens may be kept for personal use in non-agricultural residential zoning districts if the lot is at least 10,500 square feet in size, the chickens are kept in an enclosed yard or secure six-sided pen at all times, are given at least 10 square feet of space per chicken, housed at least 20 feet from any property line, and 50 feet from any residence other than the owners.
The day before the Planning Commission meeting, the city announced it would hear public comments on the current regulation regarding the keeping of chickens or other livestock for personal use during its council meeting. The notice clarified that, at this time, no vote is planned on the issue. It was simply an opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions.
Residents were given one hour to comment. Both sides (pro and con) received 30 minutes to address the City Council.
Jennifer Pfeifer was the first to comment on the pro side saying, “I am a chicken neighbor. I live next door to the Albigeses, who own five chickens.”
She shared her experience and shed light on what she thought backyard chicken keeping entailed. “At first I thought they might be kind of smelly. My back deck is close to their property line. Never smell anything. They have a beautiful chicken coop that they built that’s six-sided and it contains any chicken waste and they keep it very clean. So that’s not a problem.
Second, I was worried about roosters crowing and all that at all times of the morning. That was something I was ignorant about. Roosters are not allowed. They’re not needed for laying eggs,” Pfeifer said. She concluded her statement by joking, “Certainly they’re a lot less annoying than my own German shepherd and my two teenage boys are.”
Heather Mavros added to the pro side by saying, “When we bought our house in December, all of our paperwork says Norcross and we were under the impression that we were in Norcross and were planning on getting chickens.’”
Mavros went on to add, “I’m 30-years-old and to most of you, I’m probably a millennial. Love living in Peachtree Corners, but I agree…if you are trying to attract innovation, I think this is one that’s a step in the right direction. I have lots of friends that live in many different cities around Atlanta, all of which either have chicken neighbors or chickens in their backyard. Chickens are like the trendy ‘it’ thing. But all do it responsibly and take on chickens as their pets. We love our dogs. Pretty much they are our children. We have two of them and we love them. And if we had chickens we would love them just the same and put in the time, the money, the effort, and the love and care.”
On the con side, Bob Ballagh was the first to take the podium. “I was raised on a farm. I had a lot of backyard chickens. Small lots. Big lots. And I don’t have particularly fond memories of all that. They do get dirty. There is poop that has to be cleaned and put someplace. It makes great fertilizer if you’ve got enough yard to use it appropriately with compost… I don’t know what size lots the people that have the chickens have, but I know that mine wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even think about it. I think most of my neighbors feel the same way,” he said.
Tony Stewart proposed the question, “‘Why can’t the property size be equal to the three acres that’s next to it?’ So you have to have three acres if you want chickens and your neighbors have three acres. So, we’re not forced in with them,” he said.
Stewart went on to share his concerns regarding what happens once the chickens stop producing eggs and the possibility of them getting loose and ended by saying, “I’m against the chickens. There’s a reason they were not allowed before. So, somewhere down in history, they banned farm animals and chickens for a reason, and we’re gonna repeat history.”
With no current vote planned to update the zoning code regulation (ZR 1301.7) (which was in keeping with the Gwinnett County regulation until it was amended in July 2015) regarding livestock, which currently says that the raising and keeping of livestock (goats, sheep, horses, cattle, swine, chicken, roosters, hens, ducks, geese, mink, and foxes) for personal pleasure is prohibited on lots that are smaller than three acres in area, or are not zoned as an RA-200 Agriculture-Residence District.
Only time will tell where the backyard chicken debate will go from here.
Feature picture is of the Albigeses’ chicken coop.