You know the old saying: Once you start allowing chickens in your neighborhood, any four-legged creature can walk right in off the street.
Well, there goes the neighborhood!
Despite cries of fowl play, it appears that the City of Cleveland Heights is poised to allow residents to raise up to four chickens in their backyards. A group called Hens in Lakewood
is lobbying their city to allow chicken-rearing too, yet the group is battling resistance from other residents and skeptical city council members.
The City of Cleveland Heights, once the pristine province of those fleeing the city for greener (yet livestock-free) pastures, may soon return to its roots. A century ago, many small farms flourished here. Although the proposed changes will not allow market gardening (where gardeners sell their wares), they will allow residents to raise their own eggs.
In a few weeks, the Cleveland Heights Planning Commission will consider new, sustainable zoning code recommendations
that include allowing up to four chickens. If the board accepts the Planning Department's recommendations, the city will become one of the first suburbs in Northeast Ohio to allow chickens.
"We received a lot of phone calls about this issue, but the pro-chicken people were more vocal," says Karen Knittel, a City Planner with the City of Cleveland Heights. "Concerns were raised around chickens not being well-kept and attracting rats. We're easing into this to make sure people don't disturb their neighbors."
The proposals require chicken coops to be at least 10 feet from a resident's property line, and would-be chicken keepers will have to apply for a conditional use permit from the city that can be revoked if health or safety issues arise.
Despite the widespread flaps about backyard chickens, Jaime Bouvier, a Visiting Legal Writing Professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, says that genuine problems are actually quite uncommon.
"In cities across the country, backyard chickens are always very contentious," she says. "Yet the issue causes more concern than warranted. Typically, there aren't huge amounts of people that do it, and it doesn't get out of control."
Bouvier has written extensively about the legal issues surrounding backyard chickens and aggregated model practices around the country. She has organized an Urban Agriculture Symposium
that takes place at CSU this Friday.
Source: Karen Knittell, Jaime Bouvier
Writer: Lee Chilcote