After a scrambled start that ruffled more than a few feathers, efforts to allow backyard chickens in the city of Frederick have successfully hatched.
The Frederick Board of Aldermen on Thursday approved an amendment to the city code to permit up to six hens on residential properties. Existing city code barred all residential livestock, including chickens.
The 4-1 vote represented the culmination of more than a year of research, advocacy and community engagement spearheaded by a small group of fowl-friendly residents. But the final product was worth the time and deliberation, officials and community members agreed.
Several aldermen noted that although they were originally unsure, or even opposed to the idea of domestic hens in the city, the group’s thoughtful efforts to address concerns and seek input from all sides of the issue were something to crow about.
Alderwoman Kelly Russell thanked the group for serving as a role model for how local residents can work to change city laws in a civil manner.
Jeff Raney, city resident and leader of the pro-chicken group, also emphasized the importance of advocating for change peacefully.
“We didn’t feel that coming in here and slamming our fists on the podium ... was the right way to get chickens in the city of Frederick,” Raney said. “Our goal was to write an ordinance that we believe encourages responsible ownership of a safe animal.”
Raney characterized the final legislation as “perfect.”
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, who cast the sole vote against the ordinance amendment, cited her concerns with the requirements for hen enclosures and a lack of protection for neighbors of prospective chicken owners.
Despite her no vote, she also praised the local advocates.
“You truly epitomized citizen involvement in Frederick,” she said.
The approved legislation includes specific provisions and restrictions on the quantity of, care for and enclosures of the birds.
Restrictions and rules are as follows:
- City residents with individually owned backyards and a lot size of at least 2,500 square feet.
- One for every 500 square feet of backyard area, with a maximum of six chickens.
- Hens only, no roosters.
- Applications approved and licenses given through the public works department.
- Hens must be kept in covered, predator-resistant henhouse or coop. The coop must also be within either a fenced backyard or a fenced-in enclosure at least 4 feet high.
- Those who violate the regulations in the ordinance can have their licenses revoked or suspended and their birds seized and impounded by animal control officers.
The amended ordinance will take effect July 1. Raney, as well as several other city residents who spoke in support of the proposal Thursday, indicated after the public hearing that they planned to apply for licenses to own chickens as soon as possible.
New tool for fighting blight approved
The aldermen also approved on Thursday an ordinance that would bolster city blight-fighting efforts.
The legislation passed by a unanimous vote allows the city to fine the lending institution or buyer of a foreclosed property for failing to register the sale with the state’s Foreclosed Property Registry within the required deadline. In essence the law would encourage lending institutions to take responsibility earlier for foreclosed properties and not let them sit so long without repair or sale. Under Maryland code, a foreclosure purchaser must submit initial registration within 30 days after a foreclosure sale of a residential property. Final registration must be submitted no later than 30 days after the deed of ownership is transferred.
The city ordinance will fine the buyer up to $1,000 for failure to register eligible city properties on the foreclosure registry within the state-required deadlines.
The ordinance introduced by Alderwoman Kelly Russell in a workshop in March piggybacks on a bill considered by a committee of the Maryland House of Delegates in the 2016 legislative session. That bill, by Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, was referred to a summer study, along with several similar proposals from other lawmakers, The News-Post has reported.
Krimm’s bill, as proposed, sought to require secured parties to register with the state’s Foreclosed Property Registry when they first file a foreclosure action, instead of the current practice of registering after the foreclosure sale is final.