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The Tigard City Council recently amended its urban agriculture code, making such changes as keeping feed lids closed.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Tigard City Council recently approved an urban livestock code designed to allow the city's nuisance code to more fully address problems residents might have with backyard animals.  The good news is you can still own chickens in the city as long as you keep that feed lid closed tightly, along with a few other restrictions.

On Nov. 1, the Tigard City Council voted for regulations for a code overseeing urban agriculture, opting to not make it too onerous so that residents could continue to have chickens or raise other livestock.

Both the council and the Tigard Planning Commission agreed to sign off on what's known as the Tier II option, which simply beefs up the existing nuisance code regarding livestock regulations, according to Hope Pollard, a Tigard associate city planner.

One of the issues involved whether to regulate specific animals over others.

"We heard a lot of comments about why a collecting hen was any different from a barking dog and this is kind of the spirit of Tier II," Pollard told the council.

The existing nuisance code would regulate such things as noise, officials say, with language in the urban livestock code addressing the minimum size an animal shelter can be, the run size needed per animal and more.

"In the spirit of requiring cleanliness, without writing overlyprescriptive or bureaucratic regulations, Tier II requires all feed to be stored in lidded containers and all livestock to be in enclosed shelters at night," Pollard told the council. "These are two of the prime culprits of attracting rats with livestock activity."

It also requires animals thought to have an illness to be checked by a veterinarian.

In the past, the city has had only one specific ordinance involving urban livestock and that was that chickens be kept 100 feet from nearby structures. That requirement was removed in 2018 and nuisance codes since then have regulated such problems as odors and noise. To get community input, the city hosted two open houses on the subject of urban agriculture in June and September, gauging what the public wanted to see regarding everything from chickens, pigs and even bees kept within city limits.

"The majority of attendees thought that our draft regulations were too strict and that our existing nuisance code does a sufficient job of regulating nuisances," Pollard told the council.COURTESY GRAPHIC: CITY OF TIGARD - Both the Tigard City Council and the Tigard Planning Commission sided with the rules in Tier II.

The majority of emails received by the city from residents also felt that nuisance codes worked fine for urban critters.

Since 2017, the city has received only six code complaints about livestock and chickens, with those complaints filed because of problems with flies or rats, according to Pollard.

Since so many objected to the city's original draft regulations as being too prescriptive for a type of activity that is "constantly changing" in nature, they came up with three separate options or tiers.

Tier I recommended making no changes to the code at all while Tier II beefed up the city's nuisance codes. Tier III was the strictest, going into extensive detail about what's allowed regarding various livestock. It included specific numbers of animals allowed including a maximum of six chickens, six rabbits and three goats per lot.

Pollard said staff believes that education is the best step forward for addressing the finer points of keeping livestock.

During public testimony, one resident said he felt too much time had been spent on an issue the city's nuisance code already addresses.

"It's comforting to know (in) the past seven years, there have only been six complaints reported to the city," he said, saying he supported the less restrictive Tier 1 proposal. "Tier III, that seems the epitome of government regulation."

Another resident who said his family had been subjected to harassment, intimidation and misinformation regarding complaints about chickens they have on their property, also supported the Tier I regulations, saying current nuisance codes mitigate any potential issues just fine.

The measure passed 4-1 with Councilor Liz Newton voting against it.

While generally in support of the measure, Newton said: "I'm just concerned how the education piece is going to go. If folks out there who are well-intentioned get themselves in over their heads and we've got neighbors trying to work through issues, I think I would conjecture that people haven't complained because they don't know that's an option."

Councilor Jeanette Shaw suggested that the ordinance be reviewed after a year.

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