Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
LOGAN — Kim Johansen is getting involved in city government for the first time after learning that Logan's planning commission has been discussing laws regarding chickens and other food production animals.
Under the current proposal, Johansen would only be able to keep eight chickens on her lot, less than half of her current flock.
"It would be devastating. … Those are my girls' pets. We take care of them, they come to me when they're called, they all have names, they all have personalities ... they're fat and healthy and happy, they give us eggs, so it's just interesting that they limit it to eight," Johansen said.
Mike Desimone, the city's community development director, said this step "does just the opposite" of what Johansen and others are concerned about. Most residential areas in the city, including zone NR6 where Johansen lives, are not zoned for chickens because chickens are addressed with all commercial agriculture and are treated in code the same as a herd of cattle. However, Desimone said under the proposal, chickens would be allowed anywhere in the city.
Logan's city code says, "The type and number of animals for family food production that may be kept is limited and governed exclusively by the city's land use ordinances and regulations set forth in city ordinance. It is presumed that if a type of animal is not expressly allowed as either a permitted or conditional use in a specific land use zone as determined by city ordinances then that animal is deemed prohibited."
Johansen and her family purchased their home recently. The lot had a chicken coop left from the previous owner and she knew she wanted chickens as well. She said she heard from neighbors that there was a limit of 25 animals, and assumed she was following the laws. She communicates with her neighbors, who also have animals, about her chickens and two Nigerian dwarf goats. She has given neighbors eggs and they have fed scraps to her animals.
Johansen said it "never crossed my mind that it wasn't allowed."
Desimone said that when someone asks the zoning commission if they can have chickens, the commission has responded that it is not allowed but told people to go ahead as long as they communicate with their neighbors. The proposed law is designed to have some specific guidance for people who are asking them about chicken laws in the city. The commission is seeking to address the ambiguity in the code and restrict commercial agriculture to certain zones.
"Really what we want to do is just have standards. ... It's really pretty simple," Desimone said.
In addition to chickens, the proposed code adds language to address beekeeping, miniature livestock, and community gardens or agriculture.
Miles Roberts, like Johansen, is also concerned about the proposal. He owns 13 chickens and two roosters, which he would not be allowed to have if the current language is passed. He said his 5-year-old daughter is also involved in the issue. She helps with the chickens and has enjoyed winning ribbons for her roosters at the fair.
Roberts said he thinks that chickens should be considered in a public health ordinance, instead of a zoning restriction, so if chickens become a health issue the city government could intervene through public health and safety rules.
"They don't think of chickens as a pet, they only think of it as an agricultural animal and so that's where these kind of restrictive amendments get put in place in city ordinances and its kind of frustrating for people who do enjoy keeping chickens as pets and as animals that they have on their property, and people who are responsible with them, it kind of penalizes them," Roberts said.
The current proposed code, which will be considered again by the planning commission on Sept. 23, is significantly different from the one discussed at the previous meeting on Sept. 9. The new proposal eliminates a ban on letting chickens range through the yard and some rules about coop size and location. However, it keeps rules for number of chickens allowed based on the size of the lot and a ban on roosters.
Roberts said that he thinks the changes in the new proposal are a "fair compromise," but he still feels like his rights are being infringed and hopes that the law is modified to allow roosters before it is passed.
Desimone said that the zoning commission is "not going to really care" about residents who already have bigger flocks or whose coops are breaking the proposed ordinance if it goes into effect, and that they should be able to continue what they are doing as long as they are friendly with their neighbors.
"The person that does it that does it responsibly, they probably don't have any problems with us or the neighbors or anybody else … so for them ... it's just no difference," Desimone said.
Johansen said that even if she has no problems with neighbors while keeping her current flock, she is still not fine with the proposed changes because they create a gray area. She said it is "unnerving" to her that if the ordinance does pass, things could change quickly with a new neighbor or a different city council that decides to enforce the law.
"It's going to have a domino effect. This agricultural, supposed, community, I feel it's nonexistent so I feel sad, I feel pretty sad about it," Johansen said. She plans to attend the zoning meeting next week to talk about her concerns and ask about what data is backing up the number restrictions.