Planning Commission votes to allow chickens, bees to be kept in neighborhoods with residential zoning

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Zoning change goes before Jeffco County Commissioners on March 26

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco Planning Commission voted 4-2 on March 6 to allow chickens and bees to be kept in residential-zoned areas in unincorporated Jefferson County.

The changes would allow up to six chickens and one hive at homes in all residential zones, as long as the lot size is a minimum of 4,000 square feet and the owner meets other requirements on the housing and placement of the birds and bees.

The board members who cast the no votes, chairman Larry Anna and Tim Rogers, both expressed concern about an exception to setback rules for chicken coops.

Under the proposal, chicken coops and runs must meet all setback requirements for structures set out by a property’s current zoning — unless the coop and run are screened from neighbors’ views by a 5-foot closed fence.

Anna and Rogers had doubts that a 5-foot fence would do an adequate job of screening a structure that, according to regulations, could be 14 feet tall.

“Is a 5-foot screening wall really going to handle the noise and odors?” Rogers asked.

Those in favor said the provision was more in sync with other zoning regulations that allow smaller structures, such as tool sheds, to be closer to a property line if a 5-foot fence is present.

Planning and Zoning Director John Wolforth related a story about his own personal experience living next to neighbors who kept chickens. Wolforth said his neighbor was raising fowl in proximity to his and his wife’s bedroom, and they didn’t even know the birds were there until he and his wife went next door for dinner and saw one running across the backyard.

While some commission members thought the proposed regulations weren’t strong enough, those in the audience who came to speak on behalf of the measure said it actually is too restrictive.

Several chicken owners applauded Jeffco for the proposed changes, saying they’d hoped for an easing of the restrictions on keeping chickens and bees. One speaker said the six-chicken limit is fewer than the number allowed by Denver and New York City.

The measure goes before the Board of County Commissioners on March 26 for final action.
Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.