Despite public eggs-peck-tations, owning backyard chickens is not yet a reality in the city of Mora. At its Sept. 17 meeting the Mora City Council sent an amendment allowing chickens within the city back to the Planning Commission. At issue: the required size of coops and runs, the definition of single-family dwellings and what happens when there’s poultry in motion.
At its Aug. 20 meeting, the council initially advanced the amendment to the Planning Commission for public comment and evaluation. The change is classified as a text amendment, which adds or removes permitted uses within a district without affecting the zoning map. The Commission convened a well-attended public hearing on Sept. 9, where, after much constructive input, it unanimously approved the amendment with these requirements:
Chickens will be allowed in residential districts R-1, R-3 and R-4, on properties with single-family homes.
No more than three chickens will be allowed; roosters are prohibited.
A coop and a fenced run or exercise yard are required; they must be located in side or rear yards, and must meet the same setback requirements for utility or storage structures.
A coop must be at least six square feet in size; a run must be at least 16 square feet if an exercise yard is available, 32 square feet if not.
Letters of support from adjacent property owners are required with the application.
Chickens will be allowed upon administrative site plan review approval. The current fee for site plan review is $50, but is subject to change annually in January.
Chickens are prohibited from running at large.
Structural, zoning and enforcement issues
The commission sent the amendment back to the council with its approval for a final vote. At its Sept. 17 meeting Community Development Director Beth Thorp said the commission received emails from some attendees after the public hearing, saying smaller coop and run sizes are better for the birds.
Thorp also addressed the zoning issue, saying that residential district R-2 had been excluded due to its small lot sizes and the perceived difficulty in accommodating structure sizes and setback requirements. An attendee sent an email to the commission stating R-2 should be included, as it too includes single-family homes.
Staff reviewed Mora’s zoning codes, however, and found that the issue is more complex. The code’s definition of a single-family dwelling specifically excludes mobile homes, the main structures in R-2. “Even if chickens are allowed in all districts, the requirement that chickens only be allowed on properties with single-family homes, by definition, excludes mobile homes,” Thorp said in a written statement.
Council member Jake Mathison brought up a third practical concern: what happens when chickens run at large? He asked whether the Sheriff’s Office has a plan in place to capture runaway birds, whether deputies will chase chickens, and whether such an occurrence would be a misdemeanor.
Identifying these issues, the council voted unanimously to send the amendment back to the commission for further deliberation. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14 at Mora City Hall.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 15 at City Hall.