By Cecilia Chan
A proposal to allow for more Glendale residents to raise hens in their backyards is now kaput.
City Council in last week’s workshop could not come to a consensus on the proposed text amendment that would expand the boundary for chickens to all single-family zoning districts. Currently, chickens are allowed in six zoning districts in Glendale, primarily those that are agricultural, rural and large-lot. Other Valley cities that allow for chickens include Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Surprise.
“I encourage this council to leave it as it is,” Mayor Jerry Weiers said. “I don’t think it’s right because you want something your neighbor suffers.”
The mayor said residents who want to raise chickens can move to areas in the city zoned for the poultry.
Approximately 50 people attended the workshop but were not allowed to speak because it was a council work session. About a dozen pro-chicken residents in the audience held up egg-shaped signs with the word “yes” on them.
The issue has been debated in the city for a year with those who want chickens extolling the benefits that include healthier eggs and meat while opponents raised problems such as noise and odor.
The staff-proposed text amendment included allowing only hens and no roosters, requiring hens be contained on the property by either fences or cages, not overriding existing HOA rules and existing city codes for noise and odor would apply.
Barrel District Councilman Bart Turner, who raised the issue as a council item of special interest, said many Glendale families keep chickens even though they are not in an area that allows it.
He said if the text amendment was structured to not affect homes governed by an HOA, 75 percent of the opposition would go away.
He also suggested as a compromise no chickens on lots under 7,000 square feet and the number of hens allowed would be dictated by the lot’s size. For instance, for lots 12,000 square feet and larger, a maximum of 12 hens would be allowed.
If chickens become a problem, there are city general nuisance regulations to take care of it, he said.
“Let’s be reasonable, other cities have gone down this road and there has been no
Armageddon,” Councilman Turner said.
Overall in the last three fiscal years, code compliance responded to 180 cases related to chickens, according to staff. For the same time period, the city responded to 864 cases related to dogs.
Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff said if the city approves the change, the only options for those who do not want to live near chickens is to either move or live on smaller lots. She said there is enough land zoned in the city for chickens to accommodate those who want to raise them.
And, she noted, there are miles of homes in the city without HOAs and the city should not leave it up to HOAs to protect against chickens.
“It’s not an HOA issue but a property rights issue,” she said, adding a survey of nearly 700 constituents in her Cholla District indicated most opposed chickens.
Sahuaro District Councilman Ray Malnar, who grew up on a farm with chickens, said he studied the proposal quite thoroughly.
“Liberty is very important to me,” he said. “But on the other side of the neighbor’s fence are those who don’t want to see chickens.”
He said if the council approves the text amendment it would allow a minority of residents to better enjoy their property, but at a cost.
Yucca District Councilwoman Joyce Clark said the issue has caused a “polite civil war in the city.”
“The council has been working on this issue for a year, expended a great many man-hours and resources on the issue,” she said. “It should have never been brought to this level.”
She offered up a compromise to allow chickens at single residences with lots zoned R1-10 or 10,000 square feet. Her proposal would add about 400-500 more homes to the roughly 2,000 lots that currently have chickens. Glendale has 39,000 lots.
Ms. Clark was adamant she would not support allowing chickens on lots under 10,000 square feet. She said out of the 230,000 residents in the city, about 2,000 are invested in this issue.
“People did not buy into an urban equation to have chickens as neighbors,” she said.
Vice Mayor Ian Hugh supported moving the issue to the Planning Commission where more input can be taken in a public hearing.
Ms Clark was agreeable to that suggestion, provided the proposed amendment applies only to R1-10 and M1, light industrial, zones.
Ocotillo District Councilman Jamie Aldama said he did not realize the issue was so divisive and that a survey among his constituents shows an overwhelming support for chickens.
He said Ms. Clark’s proposed 10,000-square-foot minimum lot size would leave out half his district because most residents there have smaller lot sizes.
“If you go to 10,000, you wipe out Ocotillo and I don’t want to do it,” he said.
Susanna Atherton, who was holding a “yes” sign, was disappointed in the outcome.
The Ocotillo District resident said she has tons of weeds, scorpions and crickets on her property and having chickens would take care of that and provide eggs and meat.