Disclaimer: The comments in the blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.
On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at the regular city council workshop the issue of chickens in Glendale was discussed…again. Based upon city councilmember comments, just as the issue divided the city, it also divided the city council.
Mayor Weiers, Councilmember Malnar and Councilmember Tolmachoff indicated that they did not support allowing chickens in every residential zoning district (multi-family was not part of the proposal). Mayor Weiers felt it was a matter of choice and that if residents wanted to have chickens then they should locate in zoning districts that already allow chickens. He indicated that he and his wife moved knowingly into an area where chickens were allowed but that it was their choice. Councilmember Ray Malnar, reviewed his childhood history of living on a farm that had 300 chickens. His overarching conviction is that his mandate is to represent his constituents who, in the majority, oppose chickens and expressed his opposition to the proposal. Councilmember Tolmachoff, also expressed the majority opinion of her constituency as well as her concern that HOAs would have a major problem if they needed to expressly amend their by-laws.
Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Turner and Councilmember Aldama expressed their support for the proposal. Again, all expressed their positions in terms of representing the majority sentiments of their constituencies. While Vice Mayor Hugh was mainly silent on the issue, Councilmembers Turner and Aldama were not. Councilmember Turner framed it as a question of liberty and property rights and that everyone should be free to do on their property what they wished without government interference. Councilmember Aldama acknowledged the many citizens in his district already have chickens and probably have had them for years.
The battle lines were drawn and that left me. My district is so diverse and I discovered my constituency to be divided, just as the city and the city council. I sought compromise. I sought compromise believing that if it did not totally please both sides it would be a good one. I prefaced my compromise proposal with these remarks.
- This is an issue that should never have risen to this level. This matter began as a neighbor dispute that might have been resolved by arbitration or mediation. Over the past year the city has expended a lot of manpower and resources to resolve an issue that should never have been brought forward.
- For thousands of years man domesticated animals for food or to assist in the production of food. Today with our society’s abundance of leisure time and resources there has become the propensity to anthropomorphize animals and we have created new classes of pets. I consider dogs and cats, as well as a few small mammals as pets. Chickens are not pets. They are classed in every municipal jurisdiction as fowl or poultry.
- This issue has become a polite civil war with half the people opposed to chickens and half supporting them. Quite frankly if the issue had not arisen, people who had chickens would continue to have them and those who do not want chickens would never have been the wiser. Now, city council is asked to become Solomon to resolve an issue that no matter what the outcome, half of the community will be angry with the result.
- But deciding the issue is not as simple as deciding based on numbers on petitions. As councilmembers we must also consider what is in the best interest of Glendale as a whole.
- Expansion of chickens as a permissible use to one zoning district, R1-10 and the following will apply only to R 1-10 and M-1 (to satisfy Councilmember Aldama’s desire to include the Sonorita area which is mainly M-1). Existent code to apply to all zoning districts that currently allow chickens
- Hens only, no roosters
- Limit of 5 chickens
- Must have a coop or structure to contain chickens
- Not allowed in front yards
- Rear yard must be fenced
- Structure height limited to no more than 4 feet
- Structure must meet side and rear yard setbacks of 20 feet
- Structure must be at least 40 feet from residence as well as any immediately adjacent neighboring residence
- Structure must be 80 feet away from any school, hotel, restaurant or building containing sleeping or dining accommodations
- HOA regulations take precedence over city code on this issue
- Chickens will no longer be classified as livestock but rather as poultry or fowl
- Chickens will not be classified as pets
- No matter the size of the lot, chickens will not be permitted at townhouses, apartments, condos or any other type of attached residence
- Zoning codes already in place regarding chickens are not to be changed
I was hopeful that a compromise could be achieved. I did not think that those who opposed the ordinance in any form would consider a compromise. I assumed it would depend on Vice Mayor Hugh and Councilmembers Turner and Aldama to decide if compromise was a viable option for them. Vice Mayor Hugh indicated that he could support a compromise and I thank him for his consideration of it. However, Councilmembers Turner and Aldama simply could not accept it.
That left me with no choice for I knew that I could not support expansion of chickens to all residential zoning districts, especially the very small lot sizes of 4,000 or 6,000 square feet. Urban life is too dense to introduce a new possibility of backyard chickens when many homes are only 5 to 10 feet apart. Current residents as well as possible new residents do not move into dense neighborhoods with the sudden and unanticipated realization that they will have to contend with a neighbor’s chickens. To introduce chickens into thousands upon thousands of urban life-style properties seems inherently imprudent.
If there was to be no compromise I could not in good conscience support allowing chickens in every residential zoning district in Glendale. I joined with Mayor Weiers and Councilmembers Malnar and Tolmachoff to form a consensus of 4 (council does not vote at a workshop meeting) to not move forward with such an ordinance.
Does that mean the chicken issue is dead? Maybe and maybe not. Planning Director Jon Froke said that a resident or residents could file an appeal after paying a $4,000 fee to file. It would then go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council once again. I asked if an Initiative Petition with the requisite number of valid voters’ signatures could be filed. Mr. Froke’s answer was yes. It would then be placed on the ballot for the next Glendale election. Is there enough commitment and support on either side of this issue to follow through on either of these options? I don’t know but I guess we will all find out.
© Joyce Clark, 2017
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