Several times a month, Canal Winchester residents call the office of Andrew Moore, the city's planning and zoning administrator, asking if they can raise chickens, goats and even pigs on their property.
Moore's answer is straightforward.
"Unfortunately, the way our city ordinances are structured right now, you can't have any of those unless your property is zoned agriculture," he said.
That soon could change.
Canal Winchester City Council is expected to hold a public hearing during its Feb. 5 meeting on proposed changes to the city's zoning code related to keeping horses on single-family properties. That portion of the code was approved in August 2001.
Council members will hear the first of three readings for the amendments at the Feb. 5 meeting.
According to city law, council must adopt zoning code amendments through ordinances. The proposed changes were recommended by the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission in December.
Currently, the zoning code permits horses on single-family properties of at least five acres. How many horses a resident can own is based on the size of the property, or one horse for every 2.5 acres. Five properties within city limits currently house horses, Moore said.
The proposed amendments would establish regulations for keeping goats, chickens, rabbits, other small animals and bees as follows:
* The minimum acreage for horses and goats would be 5 acres, with no more than one horse or four goats per 2.5 acres. Only mares or geldings could be kept on lots smaller than 10 acres.
* The minimum acreage for chickens, ducks and rabbits would be 1 acre, with no more than six chickens, ducks or rabbits per acre. Commercial uses would not be permitted.
* The minimum acreage for bees would be 1 acre, with no more than two hives permitted per acre.
Permits would be issued by Moore's office to any applicant meeting the requirements. He said the process would be similar to the one used by a resident who wants to install a swimming pool or deck.
Barry Conrad, past president and current treasurer of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association, told planning and zoning commission members in December that he manages 50 beehives within 3 miles of Canal Winchester's city limits. He believes the proposed changes are too strict, considering Franklin County allows two hives on any lot that's at least one-fourth of an acre in size.
"You can't outlaw bees in the city unless you put a dome over it," Conrad said. "Bees fly 5 miles to get their nectar, which means they're flying in the city limits. The city of Columbus has no restrictions other than what Franklin County has."
Resident Jackie Marian told the commission she gardens and plants flowers and has never had any issues with honeybees. She also said she's never had issues with neighboring properties on East Columbus Street where chickens are kept.
Moore, whose office spent seven months studying the issue, said the changes aren't about outlawing animals.
"The public thinks we're making strict standards," he said. "But right now, the standards are so strict, you can't have them at all.
"We're basically opening it up to allow people to have these things."