Panel backs chicken rules

FRONT ROYAL – The Planning Commission on Wednesday endorsed a revised set of rules that would let residents raise chickens at their homes.

The commission voted 3-1 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve a proposed ordinance that would allow “backyard chickens” as a by-right, accessory use on residential property. The ordinance would also establish rules residents must abide in order to raise chickens on their properties. A sliding scale would establish how many chickens a resident can raise depending on the size of the property.

Chairman Scott Stickley, Vice Chairman Robert Myers and Commissioner Hugh Henry voted in favor of the motion to endorse the ordinance. Commissioner Ralph Rinaldi voted against the motion. Commissioner Lorraine Smelser did not attend the meeting.

Several people spoke during the public hearing held on the proposed ordinance, most of whom said they supported the regulations.

Melissa Chappell-White, of Dogwood Farm Road in Shenandoah Farms, said several residents already raise chickens on their properties in the neighborhood with no enforcement by the county. Chappell-White said an ordinance would negatively affect the neighborhood given that residents use wells and septic systems.

Brian Conley, supporter of the proposal, said an ordinance gives local government control over the practice. Runoff from a chicken operation would not affect a properly constructed well, Conley said.

Henry said a set of rules would allow the county to better enforce regulations. Myers said he’d support the ordinance but with reservation given the prevalence of predators, including bears.

Rinaldi, who lives in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision, said he wouldn’t support the proposed ordinance for safety and health reasons.

The commission had held a public hearing on an earlier version of the ordinance and heard concerns from residents and people interested in raising chickens that the regulations as proposed at the time would not allow the practice.

Also at the meeting, the commission:
• Forwarded to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of approval a request by Crooked Run North LLC to rezone approximately 0.04 of an acre from residential to commercial use. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the request.
• Forwarded to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of approval a request by Noah and Rita Rutledge for a conditional-use permit to use property on Rivermont Acres Road for private camping. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the request.
• Authorized advertisement for a public hearing a request by D.R. Horton Inc. to rezone 36.36 acres in the Blue Ridge Shadows subdivision off U.S. routes 340-522 and Shadows Drive. The properties lie on various streets in the subdivision. The owner sought the rezoning in order to allow the development of 75, age-targeted homes in lieu of the market-rate housing already approved.

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