by Rick Langenberg:
Pending a final approval by local elected leaders, Woodland Park will become a pro-chicken town with new proposed rules allowing residents to have domestic fowl on their properties. Besides having a more open door policy regarding chickens, this measure would allow property owners to keep ducks, geese, turkeys, pigeons and similar animals in certain residential parts of town. But Woodland Park officials have strongly slammed the door on roosters and fowl that can create nuisances.
Last week, the Woodland Park Planning Commission by a 4-1 vote signaled the green light for a new ordinance making it legal for homeowners to have six chickens (and six offspring) under certain conditions and in certain locations. The fowl owners would have to obtain development permits and also would have to follow strict rules regarding the fencing of their chickens and the size of designated coops, and in abiding by tough litter standards. The pro-chicken action was prompted by a petition, signed by about 75 Teller residents, a number of whom live in Woodland Park. The proposed law will land in the laps of the city council, with a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 15. Much public comment is anticipated. The town’s complex chicken situation has already generated much debate with mixed opinions among local planners.
The proposed law has been under discussion for several months. But surprisingly, last Thursday’s pro-chicken verdict occurred without any public comment. That scenario, though, is expected to change when the council tackles the domestic fowl issue next month. Commissioner Tom Rollinger, who cast the sole dissenting tally, has argued that the law would clash with the city’s beatification efforts and its comprehensive master plan. Moreover, he sees this situation as getting worse with the domestic fowl ordinance and believes the new rules could lead to neighborhood complaints and force Woodland Park to have “chicken police.” Other concerns have dealt with the need to even have a domestic fowl law, period. Some wondered if the town leaders may be opening a ‘Pandora’s Box.’ Most planners, though, contend that the town needs rules on the books to better regulate a growing interest among many residents. Keeping chickens has been touted as a key aspect of the natural sustainability lifestyle. “We are one of the few cities in the area that doesn’t address this issue,” said Planning Commissioner Jon DeVaux, who previously served on the council. “It may seem like a goofy kind of thing, but it’s something we need to do.” DeVaux described the new proposal as a simple one-page ordinance and a “common sense” law that achieves a good compromise. Without this law, he believes that the town could experience bigger problems.
Currently, chicken and other domestic fowl are not really permitted inside the city limits. According to Planning Director Sally Riley, handling domestic fowl is not stipulated in the current code in any way. And city staff members say they have received a growing number of requests regarding the keeping of chickens and other domestic fowl on properties located within the city limits. In fact, some city residents already have elaborate chicken coops set up. The discussion of the chicken law, though, has generated a few verbal sparks. One touchy aspect dealt with slaughter of chickens by fowl owners for personal consumption purposes. According to the minutes of an earlier workshop DeVaux feared this could cause nightmares for young kids who witness such an act in residential backyards in Woodland Park.
Under the proposed law, killing chickens by their owners can’t occur outdoors. The proposed law specifically bans “outdoor slaughtering of domestic fowl.” However, at the recommendation of the planners, this part of the ordinance is quite vague, and is bound to generate more debate. Strict conditions, though, will exist in containing domestic fowl within a confined 120-foot square-foot area and in setting the maximum height for a chicken coop to 10 feet. Plus, the housing of domestic fowl must meet definite setback requirements and abide by certain sanitary rules to minimize impacts for adjacent neighbors. The domestic fowl would be only be permitted in suburban and urban residential parts of town, under the proposed chicken law. Woodland Park planners, although they disagree with some aspects of the new law, are unanimous in banning roosters in any part of town.