County to consider revised chicken rules

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County planners this week tweaked proposed rules for “backyard” chickens.

Now the Planning Commission will hold its second public hearing on the regulations under consideration. The commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to hold a hearing on a revised ordinance that would, if adopted by the Board of Supervisors, allow backyard chickens on property zoned for residential use.

A previous version of the ordinance drew concerns and criticism from residents who claimed the regulations appeared too limiting for those interested in raising chickens at home. Many of the people who spoke at the first hearing said they supported the idea of allowing residents to raise chickens in their backyards but worried about the limitations the regulations would set.

The revised version eliminates the restriction that limits the number of chickens on a property to six. Instead, the Planning Department and commission have proposed the use of a sliding scale to determine the number of chickens a resident can keep.

The scale would allow no more than six chickens on property of a half-acre or less; 12 chickens on greater than a half-acre to 2 acres; and 24 chickens on greater than 2 acres. Some critics of the original limit said most stores that specialize in agricultural products will not sell any fewer than six chicks.

The commission also decided to revise the requirement that coops and pens shall set back a minimum of 25 feet from the adjacent property line by adding that such structures also must lie at least 20 feet from the dwelling. The commission reduced the distance between coops or pens and private wells, stormwater drainage areas, streams and springs from 100 feet to 30 feet. The panel also recommended other changes to the proposed ordinance related to the required management plan applicants would need to submit prior to receiving a permit.

County planner Matt Wendling said the Planning Commission will consider recommending these changes to the proposed ordinance to the Board of Supervisors unless they are modified after the public hearing.

Legislation that took effect July 1 also affected the proposed regulations and led the Planning Commission to drop from the ordinance a requirement that an applicant must provide a letter of approval or disapproval from the homeowners’ or property owners’ association at the time the application is submitted. The department can request a letter but cannot approve or deny the use based on the letter, Wendling explained.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com