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Pleasant Hills officials set chicken ordinance

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Urban farming is alive and well in Pleasant Hills — as long as chicken owners follow the rules.

After months of sometimes heated discussion, council passed an ordinance regulating the keeping of chickens in residential areas Monday night. The vote was 5-2, with Council President Dan Soltesz and Councilman Greg Smith voting against the measure.

Both men had supported a waiver for one family and their brood of eight chickens, but that motion was defeated by a similar vote.

A six-chicken limit was a compromise with the five borough families who already raise hens for their eggs. All of them said previously that none of their neighbors had complained about the birds or their coops.

For the next 30 days, until the ordinance takes effect on Aug. 21, other residents who want to raise chickens can apply to do so. But after that, no new chickens will be welcomed into the borough, except those that replace original ones.

The ordinance requires $50 permits for both the chicken coops and the chickens. They will be reissued every three years if owners conform to the ordinance. Fees, fines and procedures for enforcement of the new ordinance also have been set.

Residents would not be allowed to sell eggs or other chicken products.

Sharon Bobich and her family, whose inquiry led to the ordinance, left the chamber after learning they would have to abide by the new limit. Councilman Joe Esper had asked if she couldn't foster two hens until the Bobiches left the borough, a move announced at the meeting.

“The chickens are our pets,” she said. “We've had them over three years. It's like having to give away two of my cats or two of my dogs. It's disappointing.”

Robert Mulvihill, an ornithologist and director of education at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh's North Side, also keeps chickens in the borough. He brought his interest in urban farming to council in May and had been worried about the tenor of the comments at the meeting — from discussion of potential diseases the chickens might carry to the cost of the permits, when chicken owners seek to save money by raising poultry.

“I'm surprised that you're treating farming as though it's not to be admired,” Mulvihill told council.

Many council members seemed relieved that the topic had concluded.

“This was not a real divisive issue but a select issue that affected a select few,” said Smith, who supports people having “backyard freedom.”

“We're leaving it at this point,” he said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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