Planning Commission discusses changes to Windsor chicken law

Published 9:48 am Monday, May 1, 2017

Windsor’s Planning Commission is considering recommending a 25-foot setback for chicken coops, a $25-per-chicken licensing fee, and a 60-square-foot minimum pen size be added to the town’s residential poultry ordinance, which was originally passed in September 2016. They discussed the potential changes during their meeting on Wednesday evening.

The setback would require that chicken coops be a minimum of 25 feet from the rear property line and at least 15 feet away from the line on each side. It would also require the coops to be located behind the house.

The ordinance, as it currently stands, permits any residents whose properties are zoned A1 agricultural to raise chickens, provided that all pens and cages are kept at least 100 feet from any residential-zoned property and at least 50 feet from any other agricultural-zoned property. It imposes no licensing fee or penalties for violation.

The request for changes to the ordinance came via Councilman Walter Bernacki during April’s Town Council meeting, during which he suggested that the law’s wording be changed to make it align more closely with the residential poultry ordinance recently passed by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors.

He also said that given the way the town’s ordinance is currently worded, Windsor High School’s chicken coop would technically be in violation of the law because it is a public facility.

The chickens and coop at WHS are intended to be used for Isle of Wight County Schools’ new agriculture career and technical education program.

“We may need something that allows [chickens] in public districts when it’s for education,” said Town Manager Michael Stallings. “I don’t know if they have intentions of moving them outside the town when they build the barn [at Windsor Elementary School.]”

“The county pretty much incorporated everything that Mr. Bernacki had in his proposal,” said Planning Commission Chairman Bennie Brown.

Several members of the Planning Commission were not eager to re-examine the chicken ordinance, having discussed the issue twice already in the past year, and Brown said that if the county had not passed its own residential chicken ordinance, he would still be opposed to permitting residential chickens within the town.

“It kind of puts us in an odd position; do we want to be a lot more restrictive than the county?” asked Planning Commission member N. Macon Edwards III, who also serves on Town Council. “We don’t want to be running people out of town, but I haven’t found a person on my street who’s in favor of this.

“The first time it cam up in council I voted no. It’s a fad right now. Whether it will be a fad in 10 years, I don’t know.”

Edwards also said the town would likely have a problem enforcing the current ordinance, given that it has no animal control department aside from that of the county. Stallings said that if a violation were a zoning issue, it would fall to the Town to enforce it, but if the Town needed to capture a chicken or address a living conditions issue, the county’s animal control department could assist.

Planning Commission members Glyn Willis IV and George Stubbs both suggested the need for an additional setback requirement on the grounds that, currently, chicken coops could be located right up against a property line, putting them closer to a neighbor’s house than the owner’s.

Stallings said that he would draft a revised ordinance the Planning Commission could discuss at their next meeting. Willis said that, ultimately, the commission may end up presenting their new ordinance with the recommendation that the Town Council not approve it.

“But we’ve done what they asked us to do,” Willis said.

In other business, Stallings reported that a new Mexican restaurant called Costa Del Sol, located in the shopping center near the Food Lion, is scheduled to open on Monday, May 1, and that the town’s business appreciation event will coincide with the first concert of the 2017 season on Friday, May 5.