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The chicken question: Give it a fair hearing

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Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Chickens or no chickens? That is the question.

A group of residents has asked Connellsville City Council to change its zoning ordinance to allow for urban chicken coops as an easy way to provide organic eggs for their families. Under the city's current zoning ordinance, backyard chicken farming is only permitted by special exception in highway commercial “C2” areas or industrial “M1” areas.

But the residents say urban chicken farming is growing in popularity — it's even in bigger cities such as Pittsburgh and New York.

If local zoning is changed to allow for urban chickens, pen sizes would be mandated and the number of chickens would be set.

City council and Mayor Charles Matthew voiced concern over the request, citing noise and health-related issues. The city's health board and health officer this week reinforced those concerns.

On the other hand, chickens provided for residents both sustenance and, conceivably, savings to boot. In upholding the public's interest, government has no mandate to simply say “No” without any due diligence.

Sure, there are concerns. In some city neighborhoods, homes are situated close together and backyards are small. Neighbors may not want to view a chicken pen when sitting outside enjoying a summer barbecue.

There's also the question of enforcement. Urban chicken farming investigations would be added to the city health/zoning officer's list of duties.

The residents' request deserves the city council's fair review, not a snap judgment.

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