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Pittsburgh City Planning Hearing CHICKEN BAN pending-- Ideas?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm outside the Pittsburgh city limits, but I've met 50 or more chickens and their people who who live within Pittsburgh limits who  could be impacted by
a pending ordinance which outright[b] bans[/b] people from owning chickens within city limits. The ordinance is designed to ban chicken & bee-keeping.
There is a hearing going on at the City Planning building tomorrow. I don't know if the ordinance is being revised or actually voted on by comittee members,
but I'm going to try to attend.

Does anyone else in the Pittsburgh area know anything about this?  What is your take on how likely this ordinance is to become official?
Any idea what someone without a prestigious title or connection can do to help stop this law from becoming active?
Any ways to be proactive in the suburbs to keep our township from adopting the city's ordinance?  (Yes, the neighbors like our eggs). 

We just started a flock last autumn and our looking forward to our first laying year, so we're excited, but this makes us nervous. 

Does anyone who has been through this in another city have some advice or calming words, or irritating words, even?

We have friends who have travelled over half the country with their hens on vacation, and friends whose life (& table) would seem bland without their gallinaceous gals!
We can speak up, but I'm not quite sure how to help halt this now that it's progressed.

All input is welcome!

Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

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Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

Reply
post #2 of 10

Organize the chicken owners.

Online would be a good option. You could set up a website, blog, or facebook group.

It is important that you keep track of when the meetings are, and try to get as many to them as possible.

Come over to TheEasyGarden.com for all of your gardening needs!

Still Chickenless....
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Come over to TheEasyGarden.com for all of your gardening needs!

Still Chickenless....
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post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks, T-w-m-p, Love your name too!

Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

Reply

Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

Reply
post #4 of 10

Also, get as many chicken owners, and their friends, relatives and neighbors as you can to call the city council.  Organizing via the internet is fine, but personal contact, either by phone, letter or a in person visit is important.   Remember, municipal elections usually have really poor turnout, and the thought of making any bloc of voters angry will make any city council member nervous.  Find out who is against chickens and why, and work to counter their arguments.
I'd also bring up the fact that a lot of urban areas have recently decided to allow chicken keeping, or have recently rejected bans on chicken keeping.  Point out that urban chicken keeping is a growing, vibrant, modern movement, and that banning chickens would be a step backward.  Throw around words like 'sustainability' and 'slow food' and 'eating local'.

Proud Member of the Mesa Chicken Lobby!
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Proud Member of the Mesa Chicken Lobby!
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post #5 of 10

Hey guys,

if you're interested in this, the public hearing on the proposed ordinance is today at 2:00 pm at the John P. Robin Civic Building, 1st Floor 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh PA.

An organization called Grow Pittsburgh has taken a stab at creating a united front on this issue.  They have put together a detailed position letter on the proposed ordinance, which I will copy below.  If you support their statements, and you are able to attend the hearing, they ask that you mention that you support Grow Pittsburgh, and give some testimonial as to how chickens and/or the proposed ordinance affect your community.  Here is the text of their letter:
----------

Here is the letter being submitted to the zoning board. Please pass this around to drum up support and get people coming to the meeting!!

Dear Members of the Planning Commission:
Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit dedicated to demonstrating, teaching and promoting responsible urban
food production, applauds the citys efforts to develop a set of ordinances focused on local vegetable
production, bee and chicken keeping. We as an organization believe that simple rules and regulations
that govern urban agriculture are essential to growing the movement in Pittsburgh. Urban agriculture
represents a solution to food insecurity, can increase land values, and generally helps to beautify
communities in all city neighborhoods. The ordinances that surround these issues are essential to
promoting the concept in a safe, responsible way.
While we generally support the citys efforts, the urban agriculture community as a whole has questions,
points of clarification, and in some cases instances of strong disagreement as it pertains to language and
requirements in the proposed ordinances. As a result, we are requesting that the ordinance be tabled at
the February 16th meeting as it pertains to bees, chickens and other non-domestic farm animals, but
passed for vegetable production with the exception of one important issue related to fees.
What follows below are our points of concern, listed based on the headings and correlated with the
numbers outlined in the ordinance. Grow Pittsburgh, along with other members of the community
including Burgh Bees and many chicken keepers, request four weeks of time to craft alternative
language for these areas given our combined expertise in urban agriculture. At that point in time we
will be prepared to come back to the commission with our recommendations.
911.04.A.2(a) Agriculture [Uses] (General)
General Comments
It is not clear to us what animals are allowed on over 5 acres and what the limit would be for each
breed. Also, we would like clarification on whether meat can be sold on premises. The killing and
dressing of animals within an enclosed building is also broad we would like to investigate specific
rules surrounding that.
911.04.A.2(b) Agriculture (Limited)
General Comments
Grow Pittsburgh is concerned about the fees associated with applying for an Administrators Exception
as it pertains to Agriculture (Limited). Currently, the fee is $340 including occupancy permits, according
to City documents. The Agriculture (Limited) category was created to enable organizations such as
Grow Pittsburgh, as well as community groups and motivated residents, to establish community
gardens and other productive growing areas on vacant lots in the City. In many cases, these gardens
would be established in low-income, historically disadvantaged areas. Community gardens have
incredible potential to increase property values through beautification, and enable residents to grow and
sell their own food. However, a $340 fee that must be paid in advance could negate any chances of
profit for that garden. Grow Pittsburgh feels the amount should be lowered or eliminated.
Specific Elements
(6) The beekeeping provision in the ordinance is unnecessarily restrictive.
The 2500 square foot rule would deem illegal many currently successful beekeeping operations
in the city and would preclude a large population of city residents from ever participating in the
craft.. This requirement also promotes poor beekeeping practice, as hives are much more likely
to die off if not paired with another hive. A general rule of thumb is to maintain at least two
hives at all times. The success of this approach has been demonstrated in cities across the
country with less restrictive square footage requirements.
(9) The 15-foot setback from adjacent property line rule for hives would also deem most individual city
vacant lots ineligible to have bees, including two of Burgh Bees existing demonstration apiaries. We
believe provisions describing flyway zones and rooftop beekeeping, which focus on the flight path of
the bees, rather than hive placement, should be enacted to allow hives to be placed within 15 feet of
property lines.
912.07 Urban Agriculture (Accessory Use)
General Comments
Grow Pittsburgh is concerned about the fees associated with applying for a Special Exception as it
pertains to Agriculture (Accessory Use). Currently, the fee is $315 including occupancy permits,
according to City documents. The Agriculture (Accessory Use) category was created to enable
individuals to benefit from profits earned by selling their own produce and other products. For an
average household, a $315 fee would negate profits that could be made from the sale of produce from a
small garden plot, honey from two hives, or eggs from only a few chickens. Grow Pittsburgh believes
the amount should be significantly lowered or eliminated.
912.07.A Urban Agriculture (Accessory Use) With No Animals
Specific Elements
(5) It is unclear, in the language related to proposed structures, in which cases a detailed plot plan is
required. It seems unnecessary to request that a vegetable grower submit a plot plan for the
construction of a simple grape arbor, for instance. Grow Pittsburgh would like time to have this
language clarified and to suggest new language.
912.07.B Urban Agriculture (Accessory Use) With Animals
General Comments
Again, Grow Pittsburgh is concerned about the costly fees associated with a Special Exception (see
above). Honey and eggs produced by residents in some of the poorest neighborhoods in our city have
the potential to provide alternative sources of income. A hefty fee would all but eliminate these
individuals from participating in urban agriculture.
Specific Elements
(9) The 15-foot setback from an adjacent property line rule for structures related to the housing of
poultry birds, honeybees and non-domestic small farm animals would make most city residents
ineligible to have bees or chickens due to the narrow nature of Pittsburgh property width lines. We
believe provisions describing flyway zones and rooftop beekeeping, which focus on the flight path of
the bees, rather than hive placement, should be enacted to allow hives to be placed within 15 feet of
property lines.
(14) Prohibiting Roosters is a hurdle to self-sustainability: the ability to breed new chickens is crucial in
maintaining a flock. Rooster noise can be covered under existing nuisance laws re: dog barking as in
section 633.09.
(15) The square footage and number allotment for chickens is prohibitive:
The 3,000 square foot rule would deem illegal many well-maintained chicken operations in the
city. We believe this should be lowered.
Chicken keepers attest that three chickens is not an ideal number to maintain in one household.
It is common for two chickens to gang up on the third and create a pecking order that can
cause significant problems. Grow Pittsburgh would like to negotiate a new scenario.
(16) Many small farm animals can be kept on lots smaller than the 10,000 sq ft restriction and should to
be kept in numbers larger than one. Also, further definition into non-domestic small farm animals
needs to be explored (ruminant vs. non-ruminant) to better limit the types animals allowed in the city,
in order to protect both the animals and the populace. We would also like to address the lack of
legislation about meat/fiber rabbits and homing pigeons.
(18) The beekeeping provision is unnecessarily restrictive.
The 2500 square foot rule would deem illegal many successful home beekeeping operations in
the city. We believe less restrictive square footage requirements successfully established by cities
around the country and recommended by professional beekeeping organizations should be
followed, which allow up to 4 hives for properties under 10,00 square feet.
(20) The requirement that keeping of poultry and livestock on property that is primarily used as a single
or two unit residence limits the ability to use vacant and blighted land to produce eggs, meat, and dairy.
We recognize that the care of these animals is a 24-hour job. Instead of prohibiting the use of these
vacant and blighted lots it would better serve the population to setup Urban Agriculture Districts
similar to Cleveland's existing Urban Garden District codes and proposed codes in Detroit to guarantee
the safety and humane treatment of the animals as well as to guarantee the safety and happiness of
neighbors to the property.
On behalf of the urban agriculture community, I hope you will consider these concerns and allow us to
come forward in four weeks with our recommendations.

Sincerely,
Julie Butcher Pezzino
Executive Director

post #6 of 10

Also, there IS a facebook group.  I'm not very good at facebook, so I hope this works, but the link should be http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2373072738&gid=320790557657#!/group.php?gid=320790557657 ,
and the group is called "Support backyard chickens and bees in Pittsburgh!"

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hyzenthlay, thanks for your reprint of this letter! We didn't make it to the meeting d/t transportation problems, but we hear lots of great Local Food people did, and some good comments were put forth.

The letter is very well-worded. It should help shape the wording the City Planning office finally uses in the ordinance.

I'm glad Grow Pittsburgh took a stand for chicken & bee keeping. My partner headed the Braddock Farm part of Grow Pittsburgh in '07-'08, and I know through this that there was a lot of effort to preserve the city's wild bee population.

I'm going to print the letter & pass it to my non-computerized urban chicken friends, so they know more specifics of what's going on with the ordinance, and I'll try to look around the Facebook community. I'm don't "get" Facebook very well either.

Thanks again & happy clucks:)


Edited by bantyshanty - 2/17/10 at 2:33pm

Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

Reply

Ameraucanas, Cochins, d'Anvers, d'Uccles,  EEs, a Faverolle x,  a Marans,  Polish Crested, OEGBs, Seramas, Sebright,  Silkies,  Sizzles & a Sultan, a few mixes          dogs, rabbits, pigeons, &  a few acres of woods   
 

"I don't understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism,  but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress"...

Reply
post #8 of 10

Yeah, the meeting went great!  There was a HUGE turnout from the urban ag/local food people, and only one cranky anti-chicken/bee lady who got up and spoke, that I saw (I only stayed for 2 hours, and I heard the testimony and discussion continued on about another 30 minutes after I had to go back to work).  I think the city council is open to suggestions from the local experts on chicken and bee keeping, and groups are working on crafting new language now to propose to the council.  If anyone is interested in helping with that effort, go to the facebook link I posted above.  The chicken folks are planning on having their first meeting on February 27 at 2:00 to start putting together recommendations.  I think the meeting is open to anyone who's wants to help, and I'm going to try to go.


Edited by hyzenthlay - 2/19/10 at 7:50am
post #9 of 10

This is short notice, but there is a meeting today to talk about the ordinances with other chicken owners and attempt to rewrite them into a more chicken-friendly version.

Saturday February 27th at 305 Gist street, Pittsburgh 15219, starting at 2:00.

post #10 of 10

I hate to resurrect a "dead" thread but I couldn't find any further info on this. What's happening with this ordinance? The Facebook group says that there was a June 6 "final" zoning board meeting before it goes before the legislature to vote but I couldn't find any more info through a quick Google search of the news; only the old Feb-March articles came up with no follow-up. I guess this is an issue the news media doesn't care too much about following. I also couldn't find the text of the proposed changes. Is it online somewhere?

Did anyone here go to the meetings? Are the proposed changes being accepted? I'd really love to see the Pittsburgh ag codes get more specific and clear where urban ag is involved, but not at the expense of those of us with tiny lots!

"Hope is the thing with feathers..." ~Emily Dickinson

Little coop in the city with 4 hens: EE (Amelia), GLW (Rose), Buff Orp (Myrcella), Australorp (Ellaria).

Reply

"Hope is the thing with feathers..." ~Emily Dickinson

Little coop in the city with 4 hens: EE (Amelia), GLW (Rose), Buff Orp (Myrcella), Australorp (Ellaria).

Reply
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