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Hens could come home to roost in Farmington

Fresh, natural eggs are a pretty hot seller at just about any farmer's market. If a proposed city ordinance goes through, there might be no shortage of those fresh eggs in Farmington.

Last week, the Farmington planning commission got its first look at a draft ordinance that would allow for chickens, chicken coops and chicken runs in residential neighborhoods. It's in its very early stages, assistant city planner Tony Wippler said, but the ordinance is one people have been asking for.

"We do get probably a handful of requests from time to time. 'Can I have a chicken coop on my property?' That sort of thing," Wippler said.

The city has an ordinance that outlines the rules and regulations for keeping animals in the city limits. In its current form, the ordinance allows chickens on a minimum 2 1/2-acre lot, but does not spell out restrictions on the number of birds the landowner can keep.

In January, the planning commission reviewed a plan for the Minnesota GreenStep Program, which included, in part, information on revising the city code to allow hen chickens on any lot. Commissioners asked Wippler to come up with an ordinance revision.

The proposed ordinance allows chickens, chicken coops and chicken runs on a property, but it comes with some stipulations. Homeowners interested in operating a coop have to get an interim use permit from the planning commission. They can have no more than 12 hens - no roosters or male chickens - on the property. During the application process, they have to provide a to-scale building plan, including elevation, for the proposed coop and/or chicken run. The ordinance allows just one coop per property.

Cockfighting and slaughtering are strictly prohibited.

Most Farmington lots are 6,000 to 10,000-square feet, Wippler said. Additional stipulations within the draft ordinance require the coop to be screened from view with a solid fence or landscaped buffer with a minimum height of four feet. The coops cannot be located in the front or side yards, nor can they be built within any drainage or utility easements. Perhaps most important, the ordinance requires the owner to keep the coop clean so no noxious odors are carried to the adjacent properties. All coops will be subject to inspection by the city.

With all those requirements, it might seem like building a chicken coop in Farmington could be a bit of a hassle, or maybe even an out-dated idea. Not so, said Wippler. Burnsville approved a chicken ordinance about two years ago, and Minneapolis and St. Paul both have ordinances in place.

"It is something that is kind of a growing trend," he said. "We have had a lot of support from the phone calls we've taken."

Since the ordinance is part of the Minnesota GreenSteps Program, those recommendations are to go to the Farmington City Council at its second meeting in April. If council gives the nod, the draft goes back to the planning commission for a public hearing in May.

Copies of the draft ordinance are available at Farmington City Hall.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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