Lake Havasu City Planning and Zoning Commission was divided Wednesday about whether the city would be overrun by chickens if Arizona lawmakers have it their way.
“I like chicken. I’m having it for dinner,” said commission Chairman Jim Liesen. “It’s actually making me hungry right now.”
Liesen isn’t opposed to chickens in the city, but is sympathetic to concerns raised.
Commissioner alternate Daniel McGowan said he fears the law may be fit for ostriches, too, but thinks it’s a serious issue at hand.
Commissioner Lucas Still called the pending state legislation discriminatory against pigs.
Commissioner Jim Harris said he’ll stand firmly opposed to raising chickens, or anything, in an urban residential setting.
Commissioner Don Bergen said he just doesn’t get it.
Commissioner Mychal Gorden expressed his notion of pushing the interest to areas outside city limits.
“It opens a can of worms that we’re not ready to try and tackle,” he said.
The city attorney and Lake Havasu City planning and zoning commissioners agreed Wednesday that they were caught off guard by pending state legislation that could lead to chicken coops in every backyard in Lake Havasu City — if that is the homeowners’ wish.
The legislation in question, Senate Bill 1151, would prohibit towns and cities from adopting zoning ordinances forbidding residents in single-family detached homes from keeping fowl in their back yard, according to www.azleg.gov.
The legislation would allow local governments to limit the number of fowl and curb ownership of roosters unless they’re incapable of making noise. The pending law includes language that preempts all existing laws, ordinances, and provisions set forth by local governments. Currently in Havasu, there’s 136 one-acre lots that are zoned R/A, or residential/agriculture. Those areas are allowed chickens.
“Potentially, it could affect 90 percent of the 36,000 some odd lots that are residentially owned,” said Stuart Schmeling, the city’s senior planner.
Moving forward, commissioner discussions identified proactive avenues to combat the override.
In Havasu, a handful of emails from local citizens supporting the keeping of chickens in the city preceded the city officials’ knowledge of the bill.
“It (SB 1151) has legs and it’s moving,” said city attorney Kelly Garry, “We’re all a little surprised but it’s moving forward.”
The bill passed the Senate 29-1
Wednesday, suggestions from the commissioners include more specifically defining poultry fowl, limiting the number of chickens to just a few, and regulating chicken coop locations by means of setbacks, building separations, and permitting.
“Traditionally, chicken coops are under 200 square feet and don’t need a building permit,” Schmeling said.
Citizens and commissioners in opposition to chickens in Havasu expressed concerns about noise, smells and public health, and humane slaughter of the fowl.
“That’s typically an outdoor activity and I don’t know if we want that happening in our residential areas,” Schmeling said.
Other concerns included a potential decrease in home values, attracting predators, and the regulation of home-businesses selling eggs and fowl for profit.
During the meeting, three citizens spoke in support of keeping chickens in Havasu backyards. Six were opposed for reasons of health, communicable diseases, smells and noises. Two more citizens offered ideas of enforcement or regulation when it comes to coops.
In other business, the commissioners discussed adding language to the city’s backyard swimming pool codes that could require an alarm system for large sliding glass doors that open to a backyard pool. Current city pool codes, in part, require higher door handles, self-closures, and self-locking mechanisms. There is no such trinket for the large sliders often used in custom homes in Havasu. The proposed language would remedy that, said Commissioner Jim Harris.
Both items discussed Wednesday by commissioners were no action items. The meeting was designed to kick of discussions of chickens, and gather public input on the matter.
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