Fruita makes owning chickens easier

It will soon be easier for Fruita residents to own chickens in the city.

In a nod to the growing locavore movement, the Fruita City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to amend the city’s land use code to allow chickens to be kept in all zoning districts without the need for a conditional-use permit.

Councilmen Bruce Bonar, Bob Fuller and Mel Mulder voted in favor of an ordinance easing restrictions. Councilwoman Stacey Mascarenas and Councilman Terry Moss voted in opposition to the ordinance. Mayor Ken Henry and Councilwoman Lori Buck were absent from the meeting.

Residents can already keep chickens at their homes. Tuesday’s vote scraps a fee residents had to pay for apply for a permit in order to keep the chickens.

Currently, city residents can own an unlimited number of chickens, with those in higher density areas required to pay $200 to obtain a conditional-use permit. The ordinance approved Tuesday eliminates the need for a permit and limits the number of chickens in higher density areas to six per dwelling unit. The number of chickens on apartment building lots will be limited to 12.

Roosters aren’t allowed within the city.

Prior to the meeting, Community Development Director Dahna Raugh said she knows of two property owners in the city who in the last year obtained permits allowing them to keep chickens. During the meeting, she told council members that while interest in chicken ownership has grown the last couple of years, few who inquire about it to the city actually pursue their interest, presumably because of the permit fee.

There are several landowners who have been annexed by the city in recent years who own chickens, and city officials say they suspect there are others who acquired chickens without obtaining a permit.

Proponents of backyard chickens tout the benefit of locally grown chicken and eggs. Opponents have cited concerns such as odor and noise.

Only one person spoke during the meeting. Resident Janet Brazfield suggested the council should require fowl owners to erect a 6-foot fence to contain the animals.

Mascarenas said while the city could lower the cost of a permit, she believed it should maintain control over chicken ownership.

Moss urged the council to postpone a vote, saying he had received a number of phone calls in opposition to relaxing restrictions and that the city needs to work to protect neighbors who could be affected by next-door chickens.

He also questioned the advantages of urban homesteading.

“I can’t see that there’s benefit to that other than somebody saying, ‘I have a fresh-laid egg,’” Moss said.

Bonar, though, called it “ludicrous” for the city to impose a $200 fee and a monthslong permitting process on residents who simply want to raise a couple of chickens that cost “one dollar apiece at the co-op.”

“This is a great opportunity for people to have two chickens, for 4-H students to have a project,” he said.

Bonar said commercially produced eggs and chicken meat often contain antibiotics, while free-range chickens enjoy a more balanced diet. He encouraged the council to allow responsible homeowners to take advantage of fewer restrictions rather than overregulate based on a fear that some will act irresponsibly.


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