The Haines Borough may be hatching a new plan to allow residents to raise more chickens in the townsite’s residential zones.
The planning commission listened to two hours of testimony from more than a dozen people on Sept. 12 regarding its “three-chicken rule,” which requires residents living in the townsite to apply for a conditional use permit – and pay a $150 fee – if they want to raise more than three hens in a residential zone.
Commission chair Rob Goldberg said he will have an ordinance drawn up for the group’s Oct. 10 meeting which will set the limit at six chickens. It will also propose a permit fee of $25 instead of $150 if residents want permission to keep more than six chickens.
“I think if you have a larger lot, then more might be permissible. I think we’ll look at something like that,” Goldberg said.
A $250 fine leveled against Cemetery Hill resident Penny Fossman and her subsequent appeal of the fine sparked the commission’s discussion of the issue. Fossman was temporarily housing six juvenile chickens and a rooster following a class project, and has since gotten rid of the chickens.
Residents took aim at the three-chicken rule and Fossman’s fine at last week’s meeting. Greg Podsiki called the rule “humorous,” while Heather Lende said the fine was “overkill.” Susan McCartney characterized the fine as “aggressive” and “over-the-top.”
More than a dozen people backed changing the rule and the fine, many claiming the borough should be encouraging sustainable methods of food production.
“I have a number of issues with it, not least of which is the fact that we feel that somehow the borough is entitled to tell people how they feed themselves,” said Jeffrey Nelson. “There’s a whole mentality that’s at fault here that punishes people for trying to be self-sufficient.”
The commission voted unanimously to recommend to the assembly that Fossman’s fine be waived. Commissioner Donnie Turner argued against the fine, saying Fossman didn’t intend to raise the chickens but was merely keeping them temporarily until they could be re-homed.
The commission also approved Cathedral View subdivision resident Jessie Badger’s application for a conditional use permit, setting her limit at 12 chickens because she has an acre of property.
Goldberg said he will write up an ordinance for the Oct. 10 meeting, and commissioners will have the chance to alter it before it is forwarded to the assembly. It will go through several public hearings at the commission and assembly levels.
Goldberg is also drafting an ordinance which would require a warning letter to be sent out when the planning and zoning technician notes a violation of the code. If the problem is not fixed in 10 days, a $100 fine would be assessed instead of $250.
The $250 fine would still be applied for failure to obtain a building permit and failure to make a construction declaration, which Goldberg referred to as more “major violations,” as they can end up costing the borough money in the form of lost property tax revenue.
The altered fine schedule ordinance will also be up for discussion and amendment at the Oct. 10 meeting.