Pleasant Hills council passes chicken ordinance
Those who want to raise chickens in Pleasant Hills have 30 days to apply to do so or they'll need to hold their eggs.
Council voted 5-2 on Monday approving an ordinance regarding the housing of chickens and the construction and permit process for chicken coops.
Councilmen Regis Brown, Joseph Esper, Robert Karcher, Jeffrey Solomon and William Trimbath voted in favor of the regulations. Council president Daniel Soltesz and vice president Gregory Smith dissented.
Esper made the motion and Karcher seconded it.
Borough Solicitor Fred Jug Jr. said individuals who apply for a chicken permit beyond 30 days, effective the day of the vote, will not be approved, even if they're new residents.
The ordinance states property owners who previously obtained a permit for a chicken coop and currently have chickens may continue to house up to six hens on their property. Any resident housing chickens without a permit must register their fowl with the borough. Both matters come with a $50 permit fee, which must be renewed every three years.
Roosters are not permitted, and those who raise chickens cannot sell the birds or their eggs, as well as chicken manure and produce grown in a garden fertilized with chicken manure or compost.
The chicken coop is considered an accessory structure, which comes with a separate permit. That permit has a one-time fee of $25-$50. A confirmed figure was not available at the meeting.
Regulations on coops include having it be stationary, enclosed with solid material on all sides and a solid roof and doors. It must be at least 18 inches high with at least 2.5 square feet of floor area per chicken.
Any violation of the ordinance may result in a fine of $100-$1,000 per violation.
A copy of the ordinance is available for viewing at the borough office, and an announcement of the new ordinance will be posted on the borough website.
Adopting the ordinance concluded a three-month debate about poultry, and the pros and cons of permitting such agriculture.
Councilors reached out to officials from the Allegheny County Health Department, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, veterinarians and other agencies. Mayor Robert Bootay commended council for taking all aspects of the situation into consideration, as well as the residents who came in support and against the ordinance.
“I understand where we're going here, and I appreciate the property rights of you folks,” Bootay said. “Council's very sensitive to that. I also appreciate the fact that we're 2.2 square miles with 9,000 residents. Our average lot is probably around an eighth of an acre. We're not in a farming area. I think council's been very good with how they've handled this. That having been said, this ordinance's going to have to be enforced.”
“Most people who have up to a few chickens in the borough are not farmers,” resident Bob Mulvihill said. “They own pets that happen to be chickens that happen to produce something for their family's table. I respectfully disagree that a small number of chickens in a backyard in a suburban neighborhood constitutes anything that's at odds with the suburban or urban aspirations of that community. It's akin to having a pet.”
Esper said the chicken discussions, including the one at Monday's meeting, took far too long.
“We've been dealing with this issue for about three months now. This is insane that we're still talking about it for 30 minutes to try and work out the details of this ordinance,” Esper said. “We all agreed that six (chickens) was going to be the limit.”
The first public discussion occurred during April's council meeting when resident Sharon Bobich and several family members came in response to a letter from code enforcement officer Timothy Rehak about violating the then “unofficial ordinance” by having nine chickens.
“I'm upset right now,” Bobich said after the ordinance adoption. “It's very disappointing.”
Bobich, her son Nicholas Bobich and his fianceé Ashley Lea own and operate a coop with eight chickens.
They had a website that indicated eggs were for sale, Esper said. Lea said the site should have been taken down a year ago, and the eggs were always for her family's personal use.
Nicholas Bobich said he and Lea plan to move out of the borough within a year and take the chickens with them.
Three other chicken-related motions made on Monday by Smith and seconded by Soltesz prior to ordinance adoption failed by a vote of 2-5, with council members voting in opposite fashion.
Smith motioned and Soltesz seconded to reduce the chicken permit from $50 to $25, increase the permit deadline from 30 to 60 days, and grant a waiver for Sharon Bobich to have eight chickens until two of them are either removed or die.
Sharon Bobich said the family had those chickens for three years without any problems, and feels it's unfair she has to get rid of two of them.
“I favor backyard freedom,” Smith said.
Smith said the ordinance may be amended if more residents come forward in support of housing chickens.
“Like anything that we pass, it's subject to change in the future,” Smith said.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.