The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Some cry fowl at public hearing held by P & Z regarding chickens

A number of people would like to keep chickens in their yard in Valdez


Chickens are stirring the pot in Valdez.

The city's Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing in March to take testimony from Valdez residents on whether or not it will recommend the city council pass an ordinance that would allow people to keep chickens in residential neighborhoods in the city.

Keeping chickens in yards is an old tradition and a number of people keep them in coops or other enclosures in the outlying subdivisions of town such as Alpine Woods; chickens are strictly prohibited from other subdivisions such as Robe River or those closer to town.

However, there is a large segment of the population that would like to keep chickens in their yards. Fresh eggs, meat or pets are popular reasons the domesticated fowl are being kept in ever larger numbers across the United States.

Lisa Von Bargen, the city's director of economic development, told P&Z commissioners that her office receives about one request a month for information on keeping chickens in residential areas.

"There doesn't seem to be much grey area here," Von Bargen said before public testimony was given at the meeting. She said public opinion, through phone calls and letters, indicate people are either very much in favor of allowing chickens to be kept, or very much opposed.

"It's pretty much black or white," she said.

The public hearing is just one of many steps that will need to be taken before an actual ordinance could be passed.

Robe River resident Mark Letendre testified against allowing chickens.

"Personally, I don't want chickens in Robe River," he said, saying he believes lots in the subdivision are too small for keeping stock and that the subdivision has wild predators.

"This is only going to attract more," he said.

The possibility chickens could attract wildlife - especially predators - was often cited as reasons the domesticated birds should remain banned.

Von Bargen said that roosters - male chickens - would not be allowed in any proposes ordinance.

"I think that its definitely reasonable to not want roosters around," one man testified, who said he had kept chickens in a residential neighborhood in Santa Barbara California. He said there are many benefits, especially to children.

"It's good for kids to see where food is coming from," he said, and talked about benefits of chicken keeping, such as food security, "It's a very popular thing."

Another resident who once lived in Kenney Lake but now lives in Valdez agreed.

He said there were no additional predator problems in Kenny Lake, where a large number of residents farm or keep live stock.

Photo courtesy Karl Thomas Moore

The city's planning and zoning commission held a public hearing last month to hear citizen opinions on allowing chickens in residential neighborhoods.

He said whether kept for eggs, pets or meat, chickens are a great learning tool for kids.

"Some people would like them for pets," he noted.

John Engles, who operates a small-scape green house that sells vegetables in the summer, argued in favor of chicken keeping. He also urged the commission to recommend less restrictive rules on heating and coop requirements, citing innovations in chicken keeping that may be difficult to acquire under some of the current code proposals.

Von Bargen said anyone with concerns about chicken keeping - for or against - should contact her office directly, either in person, by phone or email.

"Because this affects so many properties in the community, because we are considering a zoning change, we actually sent out public notices to nearly 900 households," she said.


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