Friday, August 12, 2022

JCC Planning Commission Does Not Recommend Expansion for Chicken Keeping

JCC LogoThe James City County Planning Commission does not support expanding backyard chicken keeping to a wider residential area within the county.

The commission met Wednesday night and reviewed draft regulations that would expand backyard chicken keeping to the county’s general residential and residential redevelopment areas. The commission was considering the expansion under direction from the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors recently enacted a new regulation allowing backyard chicken keeping in the county’s limited residential area and asked the commission in June to consider expanding the area.

At its July 10 meeting, the Policy Committee – comprising four of the seven-member Planning Commission – did not support expanding backyard chicken keeping to the two additional districts. The committee had taken up discussion of backyard chicken keeping in March and scrutinized every residential district in the county before deciding only one – limited residential – should provide housing for the fowl.

The residential redevelopment area does not currently include any houses, nor have any new houses been proposed for the district. In the general residential district, there are many established neighborhoods – including Ford’s Colony, Kingsmill and Windsor Forest – and smaller lot sizes, which the commissioners considered to be inappropriate for chicken keeping.

Though the committee did not support expanding chicken keeping, the members seized the opportunity to direct staff on what should be included in a potential ordinance.

The draft regulations mirror the county’s chicken-keeping ordinance for the limited residential district:

  • Chickens may only be kept on 15,000-square-foot or larger properties with single-family homes;
  • Two chickens are permitted per the first 5,000 square feet, and one additional bird is allowed per each additional 5,000 square feet;
  • No more than 12 hens are allowed per property, and roosters are not allowed;
  • Coops or cages are required and only allowed in the rear yard, and must be at least 5 feet from property lines and 25 feet from any neighboring home;
  • Chickens must be housed outside of any resource protection areas, which are 100-foot buffers protecting the county’s waterways and wetlands; and
  • Property owners must submit a county application to keep chickens and pay a $20 fee.

The full commission supported the committee’s opinions, and recommended against expanding chicken keeping into the two additional residential districts. The commissioners voted on each district separately, and recommended against each 6-0 with Commissioner Heath Richardson (Stonehouse) absent.

“I believe people choose a neighborhood based on the experience they think they are going to get. For instance, a person who moves into New Town would be different than a person who moves into Kingsmill. The experiences are going to be different,” said Commissioner Robin Bledsoe (Jamestown). “I think if we change that experience because a few people believe they should be able to have chickens — in my opinion — that is a backwards way of doing it.”

If the supervisors do vote to expand backyard chicken keeping, the commissioners, on a 6-0 vote, asked that all chicken-keeping regulations disallow chicken harvesting.

The draft regulation for the limited residential district the commissioners forwarded to the board in June does not allow chicken harvesting, but the board voted to nix that caveat to instead restrict commercial chicken harvesting.

The commission’s Wednesday request also extends to the limited residential district.

The commission’s recommendation against allowing additional districts to keep chickens will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors. The board will have the final say, and can choose to allow chicken keeping against the commissioners’ recommendation.

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