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Homeowners Seek 'Chicken Collective'

MONMOUTH -- It was last summer that Monmouth agreed, on a short-term basis, to allow citizens to keep hens in their backyards.

MONMOUTH -- It was last summer that Monmouth agreed, on a short-term basis, to allow citizens to keep hens in their backyards.

Eight months into that two-year trial run, the city is now being asked to consider a chicken-raising "collective."

The homeowner's association of Edwards Addition, a planned-unit development in southeast Monmouth, has asked for a provision to allow it to incorporate a chicken coop and yard into its urban farm amenity.

The upscale subdivision has a 3-acre parcel dedicated to vegetable and grain crops that residents themselves tend.

Eric Olsen, the developer, said in a letter to the city council that a free-range chicken area was part of his concept for the farm when it was created two years ago. The hope is to keep 25 to 50 chickens in a common-space site that's buffered from homes.

Monmouth's chicken ordinance allows citizens who live in single-family homes to keep up to five hens, with no roosters. The birds must be in fenced backyards or sideyards and coops must be clean and free of odor.

In his letter, Olsen said he incorrectly assumed that because the property was grandfathered in as agricultural land that the coop idea would be allowed. He asked for a limited exception of the current ordinance to allow for the collective site.

"Nobody thought an exemption was a good idea," said City Manager Scott McClure. "The original ordinance was an experiment, to see if it makes sense for Monmouth."

The topic of collective chicken-raising on vacant lots or apartment complexes was brought up when the ordinance was first created; councilors opposed it.

"This isn't just an issue of Edwards Addition, but everyone," McClure said.

That doesn't mean the Edwards Addition concept is dead, though. Because the subdivision is configured differently than other neighborhoods, a coop on its farm amenity isn't unreasonable, McClure said.

"The council has asked to take a critical look at urban farming and bring back an analysis on what it would take to allow what's being proposed," he said.

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