Saturday, March 10, 2012

City prepares to relax restrictions, caps, fees for chicken owners (Salem)



Residents have been able to legally keep chickens in Salem for more than a year, but owners think that the city's cautious approach to enforcing the rules has been too strict and a drain on Salem's budget.
In response to requests from chicken owners, the Salem City Council is ready to finalize changes to an ordinance that would allow more chickens in more places while trimming fees and mandatory inspections.
Barbara Polermo, founder of "Chickens in the Yard," a local chicken-keeper support group, said she has visited City Council chambers as many as 18 times to lobby for changes.
"There is no reason to over-regulate and over-charge," Polermo said. "I will be happy with these changes, and when the city makes them final, I will never go back to another council meeting again. I made that promise to them."
Under the proposed new rules, licensed chicken owners will be allowed to keep as many as five birds. Only three currently are allowed.
The list of allowable locations also will be expanded to include churches, schools and community gardens.
Coops currently must be at least 10 feet from any structure, a rule that Polermo said causes problems for owners with small back yards. The new rule would allow a coop to be as close as three feet to a house.
Chicken owners also will be allowed more space because the adjacent chicken runs will no longer be included in the 120-square-foot maximum. Coops will continue to have a required 20-foot setback from neighboring homes.
Since Jan. 1, 2011, the city has received 60 applications to license chicken coops. All have been approved — meaning there are no more than 180 legally resident chickens within city limits.
It was thought that the new ordinance would reduce the number of complaints and violations, but that has not been the case, said Brady Rogers, compliance services administrator for the city of Salem.
"Before the ordinance, we had about 30 cases each year. About a quarter of them involved roosters, which are not permitted," Rogers said. "In 2011, there were 29, so basically we had about the same number of violations as we did before."
Rogers said 90 percent of initial coop inspections have passed, which has given the city enough reason to drop an additional inspection upon renewal.
Despite the violations, only one citation has been issued under the current ordinance, Rogers said. It was issued to a license holder who repeatedly allowed chickens to roam freely, something not allowed under the rules.
On March 12, the council will consider final amendments to the ordinance. Fee changes and a final vote most likely will come before the council at the March 19 meeting.
The current license is $35 per year plus $15 in fees. Under the proposed fee structure, the yearly charge would be replaced with a one-time inspection fee of $25.
"Basically it goes from $35 a year to $40 for life," Rogers said.
tdcollins@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6750 or follow at twitter.com/TimmCollinsSJ

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