The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday will consider an ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to six female chickens, or hens, at homes in the city, possibly starting this year. No roosters would be allowed, and henhouses would not be allowed in front yards.
Council will consider an ordinance that was adopted by Knoxville in 2010 and amended for potential use in Oak Ridge.
Under the proposed ordinance, which has been requested by City Council members, the Oak Ridge Police Department Division of Animal Control would have authority to permit residents to keep hens. The Oak Ridge Community Development Department would be responsible for permitting and inspecting residential henhouses and fencing for the hens, often referred to as “backyard chickens.”
Fenced enclosures and henhouses for the chickens would have to be properly ventilated, clean, dry, and odor-free. The enclosures and henhouses would have to kept in a neat and sanitary condition and not disturb neighbors due to noise, odor, or other adverse impact. They would have to provide adequate ventilation, sun, and shade, and be built to resist access by rodents, wild birds, and predators, including dogs and cats. The access doors to henhouses would have to be capable of being shut and locked at night.
If adopted, the ordinance would require $25 annual permits for domestic hens, plus a one-time $50 building permit fee for the required henhouse, according to a memo from Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson to City Council members. Permits would expire on December 31 each year, although permits issued in 2016 would extend through December 31, 2017. Only one permit would be allowed per property.
Permits could be suspended or revoked by Animal Control when there is a risk to public health or safety or failure to comply with applicable ordinances or law.
Under the ordinance, hens would have to be kept in a fenced, predator-resistant enclosure at all times, with a minimum of two square feet per hen per fenced enclosure. Neither the henhouse nor fenced enclosure could be within 10 feet of abutting property lines.
Hen food would have to be kept indoors or in waterproof outdoor containers that are designed to prevent access by animals.
Existing ordinances that relate to animals—such as those that relate to cruelty to animals, requirements that don’t allow them to roam at-large, and the animal noise ordinance—would apply to hens as well.
To implement the ordinance, requiring zoning ordinance amendments would have to be reviewed by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission, Watson said. Council could consider the zoning ordinance amendments in meetings in June and July or at special-called meetings.
All approvals could be complete by August 1.
The effect of the ordinance would be to allow hens, but not other types of fowl, in residential zones in the city, with the exception of RG-1. Livestock is already allowed on properties zoned RG-1.
The property owner’s written permission would be required when a permit applicant is a tenant. Written permission would also be required from a homeowner’s association when an applicant’s property is governed by a homeowner’s association. The ordinance would not supersede any deed restrictions.
The city staff has included some items for consideration. Those are provisions that are not contained in Knoxville’s ordinance but do appear in other cities’ ordinances. Among the ones that City Council could consider:
- No perceptible odor from the hens or the hen enclosure shall be present at any property line.
- Breeding is not permitted.
- The city could impose a height or size limit on henhouses, limiting them to 10 feet high as Clarksville does, for example.
- Restrict re-application for permits when they’ve been revoked.
- Require screening so that henhouses would not be visible from public right-of-ways.
The Council could also address concerns related to the keeping of hens on multi-family properties and odd lots. Some cities limit their ordinance to only single-family homes, and others (Clarksville) have a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet, the city staff said.
Council could also consider a modification to state that a dog that attacks or bites a hen that is not properly confined, as outlined in the proposed ordinance, would not, based on that act alone, be declared a vicious dog.
The City Council meeting on Monday starts at 7 p.m. May 9 in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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