Public Hearings - CHR 4-2014 Backyard Chickens

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PUBLIC HEARING - July 22, 2014

CHR 4-2014 Backyard Chickens

A public hearing was held today at 6:12 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room, R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland, for Code Home Rule Bill No. 4-2014 Permitted Principle Uses and Structures which is AN ACT to amend Article V, Sections 1.4. (Agricultural Zoning District – Accessory Uses and Structures), 2.4. (Resource Conservation District – Accessory Uses and Structures), 3.4. (Rural Character – Accessory Uses and Structures), 4.4. (Rural Residential – Accessory Uses and Structures), 5.4 (Critical Area Residential – Accessory Uses and Structures), 6.4. (Community Residential - Accessory Uses and Structures), 7.4 (Village - Accessory Uses and Structures), 8.4 (Intense Village – Accessory Uses and Structures), 9.4 (Intense Village Critical Area – Accessory Uses and Structures), of the Kent County Land Use Ordinance for the purpose of adding language which will allow the keeping of backyard chickens under specific conditions.

County Commissioners, Ronald Fithian, William Pickrum, and William Short were in attendance. Ernest A. Crofoot, County Administrator and County Attorney, Amy Moredock, Director, and Carla Gerber, GIS Specialist, Planning, Housing, and Zoning, were also in attendance.

Commissioner Fithian read the public notice into the record. Sabine Harvey, co-applicant of the proposed text amendment submitted a letter of support. The Commissioners received several emails in support of the legislation, and one email stating opposition.

Ms. Gerber shared that the text amendment allows for back yard chickens on residential properties. The current land use ordinance requires 20 acres, and the Planning Office has had some requests from property owners with less than 20 acres who would like to keep chickens. The text amendment allows for a limited number of chickens, and was drafted to allow for the health and happiness of the chickens and not to allow an overwhelming amount of chickens in a residential area. Ms. Gerber reminded the Commissioners of the letter submitted by Elizabeth Morris, Chair, Planning Commission on June 10, 2014. The letter provided a favorable recommendation of proposed text amendment and found that the amendment is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

John and Ellyn Vail, co-applicants of the proposed text amendment presented a short power-point presentation that demonstrated the need for the amendment and the consistency with the Comprehensive Plan. The proposed amendment lists specific requirements for the keeping of backyard chickens. Many residents are knowingly or unknowingly violating the current Land Use Ordinance by keeping backyard chickens. Mr. Vail stated that over 175 signatures in support of the amendment were collected in a couple of weekends at the Farmer’s Market. A group of supporters were in attendance and showed their support by standing and stating “me too” after the presentation.

Commissioner Fithian invited comments and questions from the audience. The three citizens, who signed the testimony log declined to comment after Mr. Vail’s presentation. Mr. Crofoot made a statement for the benefit of anyone who does not have a clear understanding of the zoning law. The legislation will not affect municipalities, and only applies to the unincorporated areas of the County. There were no further comments.

Written comments will be accepted in the Commissioners’ office until Friday, August 1, 2014, at 12:00 p.m.

A motion was made by Commissioner Short, seconded by Commissioner Pickrum and carried unanimously to adjourn the public hearing.

The hearing was taped for reference and the Commissioners adjourned the public hearing at 6:28 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Sondra M. Blackiston

Ronald H. Fithian, President
The County Commissioners
Of Kent County, Maryland