Photo: Todd Freimuth
Despite back and forth debates and information presentations, the Arlington Civic Federation postponed their decision of whether to support residents who wish to build backyard chicken coops and raise egg-laying hens.
“This is an environmental benefit because when urban agriculture is done on small scale all the nutrients are recycled on the land,” said Ed Fendley, a spokesperson for the Arlington Egg Project and a civic federation delegate.
The Arlington Egg Project is a nonprofit organization advocating to relax zoning laws that prohibit many residential lots from building coops on their properties.
The current law states that single homeowners in residential districts can have chicken coops on their property if the coop is 100 feet from the property line. Arlington lots that have a 100-foot buffer are rare, and the Egg Project wants to see the buffer drop to 10 feet. The group does not want to change the law to allow roosters into people’s backyards.
However, those who oppose the changes refuted many claims about sustainable growth and cited other concerns with the coops, including the chicken waste runoff.
“Eventually, I believe this will end up in the Chesapeake and your neighbor’s backyard,” said Jim Pebley, who introduced a resolution opposing the chicken coops. “The smell is unavoidable.”
Pebley also wants to know who will police the chicken coops. He believes that the county cannot effectively monitor the coops because of the current economic situation. This would turn neighbors into police officers, he said.
“How many hens will be allowed, who will count them?” said Pebley. “This just really borders on nonsense.”
So far the Arlington Egg Project has over 1,000 online signatures for their petition to allow backyard hens, said Fendley.
Portland, Chicago and Baltimore all have zoning ordinances that allow residents to operate and maintain small numbers of hens, Fendley said.
As the chicken coop debate continued past the meeting’s scheduled end time, multiple neighborhood delegates began to question the resolution’s language.
“Given the resolution here, it confuses the heck out of me,” said Anita Blegg. “Which are we trying to be opposed to?”
After much time was spent among federation delegates debating the proper process to amend the unclear resolution, a motion to adjourn was called for and seconded around 10:15 p.m.
Before the motion to adjourn passed, another motion to postpone the resolution for 30 days and send it back to the federation’s zoning committee passed, giving the federation more time to carefully deliberate their position on the resolution and rework the language.
The resolution will reappear at the federation’s June 5 meeting.
An urban agriculture task force chartered by the county board to study the effects of sustainable growth and agriculture in Arlington, including backyard hens, will report their findings to the county board in 2013.
The Civic Federation is the umbrella group for all the neighborhood civic associations.