by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Tualatin City Councilors have approved a plan to allow residents to keep up to four chickens on their property. The issue has divided residents, and the city council.They say not to count your chickens before they hatch, but Tualatin residents can start looking forward to fresh eggs for breakfast after the City Council approved a plan to allow residents to keep backyard chickens in their yards as pets.

The council approved a plan on Tuesday to allow people to keep and maintain up to four chickens, with a list of provisions.

It’s an issue that has been floating around the city for years.

The city first took up the issue in 2010, but those plans stalled for years on the backburner.

A year ago, a grassroots effort revitalized the idea, sparking both public support and outcry.

Websites were created, and people posted to Facebook pages weighing in on the subject.

Under the ordinance approved by the council on Tuesday, families will have to receive a five-year license and pay a fee from the city in order to keep the birds. Chicken coops will have to be no larger than 200-square-feet, and less than 8 feet tall.

Residents won’t be allowed to keep roosters, or to butcher the animals for food on the property.

Coops must be kept at least 10 feet away from property lines, and 25 feet away from adjoining homes.

The final regulations aren’t near as strict as they could have been.

Councilors had considered requiring the city to send notices to neighbors, alerting them that chickens would soon be coming to a home on their street, and forcing coops to be at least 25 feet away from all adjoining property lines, which would have forced most people to build chicken coops on their back patios.

Pro-chicken advocates complained to the council saying the proposed regulations would effectively stop anyone from owning chickens in the city.

In an example shown to the council by city staff, only about half the homes in a neighborhood of about 80 houses would be eligible to keep chickens because of the size of their properties.

That didn’t sit well with some members of the council.

“If you have been following this, you have heard me say many times that my goal here is to allow people who want chickens around to get them, and people who don’t want chickens around to not have to put up with them,” said Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden to a crowd of people at Tuesday’s meeting.

Tualatin is a late adopter of backyard chicken ordinances. Tigard, Sherwood, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Portland already have ordinances on the books allowing backyard chickens in neighborhoods.

The issue has drawn ire from some, who say chickens are loud, smell and can be unsightly.

Others said the birds were members of their family, no different from a dog or cat and should be treated as such.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the divide was never clearer.

“There is overwhelming support for this,” said Laurie Jarmer, a pro-chicken advocate.

“Everyone I have talked to is against it,” said resident Dianne Yates.

In its ordinance, the city tried to meet the desires of chicken-keepers while giving upset neighbors a place to voice their concerns.

Councilor Ed Truax, who has been vocally opposed to the idea of backyard chickens for years, was the lone dissenting vote, saying that allowing backyard chickens would upset neighborhoods.

“The most common sense way to solve all these concerns is not to have an ordinance with built-in complaint processes and notification processes because we assume this will create such conflict in our subdivisions and our neighborhoods that we need that,” Truax said. “I think that there are a lot of well-meaning people who want chickens in their backyard, and there are a lot of well-meaning neighbors that don’t. And we have to try to figure out a way to represent all those people.”

Truax said that with lot sizes getting smaller and smaller, neighbors are already too close together to support a contentious issue like backyard chickens.

“We are already on top of each other as neighbors, and this is one more opportunity that evidently is widely recognized as having the opportunity for conflict and bad feelings between neighbors,” Truax said.

The approval by the council will become an official city ordinance, which the council is expected to formally approve at its Nov. 25 meeting.

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