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Penn Hills allows backyard chicken coops, with limits

Samson X Horne
| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, 5:18 p.m.

Penn Hills residents now have the chance to raise chickens in residential neighborhoods.

Council has approved an ordinance long in the making that will allow residents living on less than 5 acres to apply for special exceptions from the municipality's zoning hearing board to raise hens.

The original ordinance was tabled at a March 7 meeting to allow council to meet with the planning department. Council declined to adopt the ordinance Sept. 12. After being reworked, the ordinance passed 4-0 at council's Oct. 17 meeting. Councilman Gary N. Underwood was absent.

The ordinance states that up to four hens, no roosters, are permitted at a residence. Prospective bird owners must register and obtain a building permit from the department of code enforcement to erect chicken coops.

Other requirements of the ordinance include:

• Coops must be at least 25 feet away from dwellings not belonging to the owner.

• Coops must be vermin- and predator-proof and provide at least 3 square feet per chicken.

• Materials for coop construction must be uniform and they must be painted or stained.

• No slaughtering of birds is permitted.

Mayor Sara Kuhn, who in last month's meeting warned against making a blanket ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens, described the amendment as a “win-win” for both the municipality and for those wanting to raise fowl.

She said requiring a variance and the other rules added stakes that would discourage residents who were weren't serious about raising chickens.

It will bring residents “who are genuinely concerned about raising chickens, because they would not go through all the work … and the expense on a whim,” she said.

The fee to apply for the special exception was increased from $50 to $100 in a separate ordinance.

In other business

Council also:

• Tabled, at the request of Kuhn, a vote to borrow up to $11.5 million to pay for a new municipal building. Kuhn said she needed “further information” from the municipal manager.

• Authorized the municipal manager to purchase computer upgrades for the Penn Hills and Lincoln Park libraries.

• Authorized entering into an agreement with Alcosan to apply for two Green Revitalization of Our Waterways program grants for 85 percent of the project costs. The first project is for sewer runoff around the former Churchill Valley Country Club. The grant sought, which would help pay for up to 21,000 feet of pipe, is for $232,790, leaving Penn Hills responsible for $41,000. The second project is for sewer runoff around Orin Street. The grant sought is for $285,371, leaving Penn Hills to pay $50,359.

• Adopted a capital improvement program for 2016 to 2021. The program is a long-range plan that identifies capital projects and equipment purchases and provides a planning schedule. The plan includes estimated costs for constructing a municipal building. It does not include estimates for the demolition of the existing municipal building or improvements to the space after demolition.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach h im at 412-320- 7845 or .

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