WINCHESTER — Local chickens will have to find places to roost instead of yards on small residential lots in Frederick County.
By a 4-3 vote on Wednesday night, the Board of Supervisors voted down a proposed ordinance amendment that would allow backyard chickens in Residential Performance, Planned Residential Community and Residential Recreation zoning districts. Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and Supervisors Judith McCann-Slaughter, Bob Wells and Blaine Dunn opposed the amendment to allow backyard chickens, while supervisors Josh Ludwig, Doug McCarthy and Shawn Graber supported it.
Chickens are only allowed in the county’s Rural Areas (RA) zoning district. Had the amendment passed, single-family detached lots with 15,000 square feet (0.34 acres) or greater would have been allowed to have six chickens by-right. Roosters, guinea fowl, turkeys and peacocks would have been prohibited, as would the sale of meat or eggs for commercial use.
During a public hearing, a few citizens spoke against allowing backyard chickens. Shawnee resident Laurie Logue questioned how the county could prevent the chickens from negatively impacting adjoining properties. She said, “passing the ordinance will result in the county spending more time monitoring and controlling and will negatively impact adjacent residential property owners.”
County resident Laura Pierson said allowing chickens on properties less than one acre could cause problems.
“If we allow these chicken coops to be built, and this excrement from these chickens isn’t controlled properly, it’s gonna wander into somebody else’s yard, and it will be the adjacent property,” she said. “It’s not good.”
However, several people came to the defense of backyard chickens. Red Bud resident Sharon Mauzy believed people should be able to have chickens to feed their families and neighbors. Sharon said while the proposed six-chicken limit was “doable,” she would have liked the county to allow 10-12 chickens per yard. She also thought the concerns of chickens being visible from other properties and excrement were overstated. Greg Mauzy also believed the proposal as presented was too restrictive.
“The only thing you should do is tear this piece of paper off, throw it away and simply write down that Frederick County residents have the freedom to grow and raise their own food, period,” he said.
Supervisor Ludwig said as a general principle, he’s in favor of expanding property rights. He said Warren and Shenandoah counties allow chickens on properties below 0.34 acres. He also noted that Frederick’s proposed amendment wouldn’t have applied to areas where homeowner associations forbade chickens. Furthermore, he added that he had raised chickens growing up, and “six chickens is not a particularly big deal.”
Graber made a motion to allow six chickens on properties that are 0.34 acres or greater.
DeHaven objected to the proposal, saying “anything under five acres is ridiculous.”
When Graber’s motion failed by a 4-3 vote, Ludwig tried to initiate another vote that would increase the minimum acreage to 0.5 acres.
County Attorney Roderick Williams said the board could entertain a motion to reconsider the chicken issue but that the move would have to be made by one of the four supervisors who initially voted against allowing backyard chickens. Since none of those four supervisors opted to reconsider, Ludwig’s proposal could not advance.
Also at the meeting, the supervisors:
Unanimously rezoned two parcels of land totaling 10.9 acres from the B3 (Industrial Transition) District to M1 (Light Industrial) District to allow 84 Lumber to expand its business. The properties are located northwest of the intersection of Martinsburg Pike (Route 11) and Yardmaster Court (private roadway) in Stephenson. They are adjacent to the 84 Lumber Manufacturing Plant at 240 Yardmaster Court.
The supervisors unanimously voted to appropriate $11.5 million to the Winchester Regional Airport so the airport could replace its terminal building. The money is the amount necessary to cover the costs of construction, construction administration, and administrative and legal fees for the project. According to airport director Nicholas Sabo, the project will be paid for through grants and loans. Although no local taxpayer dollars are to be used for the project, the supervisors still had to appropriate the money since Frederick County is the fiscal agent for the airport.