CHANDLER — An ordinance allowing chickens to be kept at any single-family home was approved by the Chandler City Council at its Dec. 5 meeting.
Ordinance No. 5035, which has been worked on for the past year, would allow as many as five chickens to be kept in backyards or sideyards of single-family lots, with a long list of size and spacing restrictions. By a 5-2 vote at its Nov. 10 meeting, the council gave tentative approval to the ordinance, with Councilmen O.D. Harris and Matt Orlando dissenting.
The same two councilmen voted against approval of the ordinance at its Dec. 5 meeting, where it became law by a 5-2 approval on a consent agenda.
Homeowner associations, which comprise 71.5% of singlefamily subdivisions in Chandler, can prohibit the keeping of chickens through their covenants, conditions, and restrictions, the city says.
The fact the ordinance really won’t realistically affect many neighborhoods in the city was brought up at the Nov. 10 meeting, but spreading of disease and noise were the main topics of discussion.
A handful of those who spoke seemed surprised the city government was even putting resources into the subject.
“Our city, right now, has big issues,” resident Ruth Jones said. “And yet, we’re taking time to discuss something that has already been brought before you. You’ve heard the overwhelming voices of the people opposed to this. This is the first time tonight that people have come to speak in favor of the ordinance. But rather than let their voices be heard, rather than focus on what matters, you guys are focused on whether you can get the chicken ordinance through the door before two members are no longer on the council.”
Jones also questioned the usefulness of survey results from residents of HOAs where chickens wouldn’t be allowed.
The city has solicited input online about the ordinance. It says as of Nov. 2, staff had received 228 total responses: 150 in favor, 46 against and 32 not indicating a clear preference. Entries from non-Chandler residents were not included.
Tara Schneider said her neighborhood already has problems with wild geese in the area that attract predatory animals. She echoed the request several others made for a public referendum on the ordinance.
City attorney Kelly Schwab said only certain items can be referred by council to the public for a vote. An ordinance that is passed into law by council can be recalled back to the council by a petition with about 5,600 valid voter signatures within 30 days of passage, which the council can then decide to take the potential repeal of the ordinance to the voters.
A realtor said an outside study would be a good idea. That seemed to resonate with Harris, who said he was voting against it because there wasn’t enough information on how chickens would impact urban neighborhoods.
At the Dec. 5 meeting, one resident even countered with a “resolution” that opposes the ordinance.
Those who spoke in favor of the ordinance pointed out how much quieter chickens make than dogs or other neighborhood noises.
The cities of Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix all permit for chickens, as do Maricopa County and the towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek. Phoenix’s ordinance was initially passed in 1962. A handful of other municipalities around the Valley are mixed in either prohibiting or allowing chickens.
Orlando said his concerns lie with how chickens would impact neighbors. He said he also has concerns about the setback requirements in the ordinance.
Several city departments have reviewed the ordinance and city staff recommends approval, as did the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission meeting technically only votes on recommendations to the council regarding items within land use and zoning, so its 5-2 vote was only on the proposed definition of a chicken coop in Chapter 35.
Currently, properties zoned agricultural and zoned single-family SF-33, which equals about 778 residential lots in Chandler, according to the city, allows for an unlimited number of chickens.
The five chickens allowed under the proposed ordinance must all be hens. Roosters are and would continue to be prohibited within Chandler city limits in any zoning district.
The city says in 2013, a group of residents requested a code amendment to permit chickens within all single-family lots. With a 4-2 Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval, the council voted down the ordinance by the narrowest of margins, 4-3.
“Concerns expressed at the time were largely around to the city’s ability to enforce the new ordinance as well as potentially lengthy compliance timelines,” the city said in a staff report.
Staff time, personnel, knowledge and timing needed to enforce a new ordinance is still a concern, looking at public feedback during the city’s 2022 discussions on the subject. Feedback includes concerns about smell, predatory animals coming further into neighborhoods, escaped chickens, widespread feathers from moulting and loose dogs or other domesticated animals harming chickens.
On Jan. 13, 2022, council held a work session to discuss allowing chickens in some zones and requested staff gather chicken complaints and other information from neighboring municipalities. A second work session took place Sept. 19 to hear and read information gathered by staff.
There is a long list of definitions in the ordinance, including setback, coop size, permitting, location on a property, cleanliness, utilities and enforcement provisions. For example, coops larger than 120 square feet in size or seven feet or taller in height shall be classified as an accessory building, requiring a building permit and setbacks associated with that property.
Properties zoned AG-1 and SF-33 would remain unchanged with their current privileges.
It’s also unclear if two new council members-elect will leave a recently approved backyard chickens ordinance alone or attempt to modify or repeal it. The last meeting of the current council is set for Jan. 12, after which two new council members will be sworn in.
A regular study session is set for Jan. 23, with the first final-approval voting meeting for the new council set for Jan. 26.