They can provide fresh eggs, a source of food for families and help do the littlest things like eating bugs. Chickens have played an important role in the lives of some residents in East Carbon City. But now some folks may be scrambling to find a solution with the city now enforcing a zoning code that does not allow for chickens within the residential zoning area.
At the East Carbon City council meeting on Tuesday night, residents were informed of the zoning code which says it is against city law to have chickens in a residential zoned property. Some citizens brought up the issue and asked that the code be explained after receiving citations from the city for violating the city code.
The wording of the residential zoning code of the city makes it illegal to have chickens and other animals such as turkeys, ducks, hens, peacocks and other farm animals in a residential zoned area. If a resident is found to be in violation of the code, they can be given a citation and charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which is the lowest misdemeanor a resident can receive, according to Jeremy Humes, East Carbon City attorney.
Some residents expressed concern that the code was not explained by the city to the community and was not strictly enforced over the years. The zoning codes have been in place for many years, but may not have been as strictly enforced by the city until now, Humes said. He also said that over the years the city has done a number of things including enforcing an ordinance requiring homeowners to clean and keep up their properties, implemented a stronger drug enforcement policy and enforced many other ordinances. The main reason for the citations that
some residents have already received and others may soon get is caused by the wording listed in the residential zoning code, Humes explained.
"I cannot change the law in the code," he said to residents affected by the code, "but as the city attorney I am required by the city council to make sure the laws are enforced."
In order to change the code, residents would need to go through a political process which would include having a public hearing and then petitioning the city council to ask that the code be amended to allow animals including chickens within a residential zone, Humes said.
Other than the residential zoning, the city does have an agricultural and grazing zone that does allow residents to keep animals on those properties. The intent listed in the wording of the code says that "this zone covers that portion of the city which is most appropriately suited to raising of agricultural products and the grazing of livestock." The code also allows for the use of animals and fowl, domestic, the raising, care and keeping of for family food consumption and for the pleasure, but not for custom or commercial use.
Janice Pierce, an East Carbon resident, said she has had many animals including roosters, a peacock and some hens on her property for the past few years. Pierce said that the animals help her out by eating bugs on her property. She said this was the first time hearing about the zoning code and that no one living near her has complained about her animals.
"Everyone around our house likes the chickens and doesn't mind that we have them," Pierce said.
Residents who are in violation of the code said they would be willing to pay a yearly fee in order to keep their animals on their properties. Another idea tossed around by residents would look into the possibility of finding land that is zoned for agriculture so they could put their chicken coops on the property, thereby being in compliance with the city's codes.
However not everyone is in favor of changing the code. Councilman Andy Urbanik said he doesn't support having chickens in residential zoned areas of the city because of the noise and smell. He feels that chickens belong in an agricultural zoned area of the city.
While the issue has yet to be discussed before the city council during a meeting, residents are already looking into their possible courses of action. Wayne Sprague, an East Carbon resident, showed other residents a citation he was given on Tuesday morning for having chickens, turkeys and ducks on his property. He said residents affected by the zoning code will need to work together and find a solution so he and others can keep their chickens on their properties.
"We'll start looking into a zoning change and begin discussing what can be done about this," he said.
The ordinances, codes and maps showing the different zones within the city are available at City Hall for residents to look over and study, Humes said.