Ogden commission recommends against chicken ordinance, but measure still alive

Friday , November 03, 2017 - 5:15 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The Ogden Planning Commission says no to the notion of backyard chickens.

That doesn’t mean the long-simmering issue is dead.

The commission, an advisory body, voted 7-1 Wednesday to recommend denial of a proposal to allow backyard chickens. But the Ogden City Council has final say, and chicken boosters remain optimistic that council members will still OK a proposal when it comes before them, probably early next year.

RELATED: Urban chicken discussion packs Ogden council chambers

“Oh yeah, there’s hope,” John Christiansen, who’s helped spearhead the campaign for the change, said after the decision. He noted heavy support in the community for change allowing backyard chickens, as shown by surveys conducted by Weber State University and Ogden City.

Christiansen and his wife Liz — leaders of the Ogden Chicken Alliance — formally petitioned the city council to take up the matter and the city council held a work session on Aug. 29, gathering three-plus hours of input from proponents, city staffers and others. City planners, nevertheless, recommended against change allowing backyard chickens and planning commissioners sided with them when they took up the matter Wednesday.

“I think there are many citizens in Ogden who are responsible enough to take care of their chickens,” said Bryan Schade, a commissioner who recommended denial of the proposal. But there are “many more,” he suspects, who aren’t.

Commissioner Cathy Blaisdell, who also recommended against adoption of a chicken measure, worries that backyard chickens don’t fit with the future vision of Ogden that boosters are trying to project. Proponents tout the eggs backyard chickens produce, among other things, and say they are quiet, nonintrusive animals.

“I just think there are a lot of negative associations with chickens,” Blaisdell said.

Ogden Planning Division Manager Greg Montgomery, arguing against chickens, said they can create conflicts between neighbors where coops are located. Historically, increased urbanization in the mid-20th Century, he said, led to shifts restricting chickens and other farm critters inside U.S. cities.

He guesstimated that 100 to 200 Ogden residents clandestinely maintain backyard chickens and said city officials have responded to 48 complaints about chickens since 2015, issuing three citations.

Commissioner Robert Herman made the sole vote recommending action. “I actually think we should adopt a chicken ordinance,” he said, calling an ordinance proposal put forward by planning staffers reasonable.

RELATED: Ogden Chicken Alliance gathers flock of community support with WSU survey

Despite the negative recommendation, the proposal still goes to the city council, probably in January, said Montgomery. Three city council members were on hand for Wednesday’s meeting, Luis Lopez, Richard Hyer and Doug Stephens.

“What is the vision where chickens don’t fit?” Lopez, a backer of change, asked after the action, alluding to Blaisdell’s concerns. In the wake of Wednesday’s recommendation, proponents, Lopez said, will regroup.

‘Good stewards’

The ordinance proposal put forward by Montgomery — crafted in the event city leaders want something to consider — would allow chickens at homes with at least 2,000 square feet of open backyard space, where coops would be placed. The proposal would allow up to six of the birds, but for each dog, cat or ferret the homeowner owns, the number would go down by one.

Chickens would only be allowed at homeowner-occupied homes, not rental properties.

RELATED: Ogden City Council hopefuls weigh-in on backyard chicken controversy

Liz Christiansen worries the 2,000 square foot requirement would be too restrictive, severely limiting who may have chickens, should officials approve the ordinance proposal. Individual chickens, John Christiansen said, only need about four square feet each.

Likewise, the proponents noted that more and more cities are allowing backyard chickens and countered suggestions that chicken owners are messy and don’t properly maintain their birds. “For the most part, chicken owners are good stewards,” Liz Christiansen said.

Most other Weber and Davis county locales allow backyard chickens, with varied lot size requirements. South Ogden and Washington Terrace, like Ogden, do not allow the critters.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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