Gahanna residents will have another opportunity to provide input to the city's planning commission about allowing backyard chickens in neighborhoods before a recommendation is made to city council.

Gahanna residents will have another opportunity to provide input to the city's planning commission about allowing backyard chickens in neighborhoods before a recommendation is made to city council.

A public hearing is scheduled during the commission's Nov. 16 meeting set for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bonnie Gard said the city doesn't prohibit chickens where zoning encompasses 1-acre lots and larger properties.

"You can have farm animals there," she said. "You can have pigs, cows. They are permitted in city of Gahanna. We haven't had complaints from those."

The proposal to amend codes to allow backyard chickens on properties less than 1 acre involves two parts.

If approved by council, Chapter 505.081 would amend the city code to provide a lawful outline of how residents could own a chicken in a responsible manner.

A zoning code amendment -- Chapter 1170, titled "regulation of chickens" -- would define zoning requirements, a permit process and shelter requirements.

Chapter 1170 would need the planning commission's approval.

The proposal would allow three chickens maximum on a property smaller than a 0.5 acre. Homeowners who own 0.5 to 1 acre would be allowed to have five chickens.

The legislation also would prohibit any roosters, geese, peafowl or turkeys on lots smaller than 1 acre.

During a Nov. 2 planning workshop, commission member Joe Keehner said he believes local food is an important issue.

He said code regulations aren't a bad idea.

"I think arguments are emotionally charged. ... I'm not happy about cell towers. We can't outlaw them. It seems individual citizens should be able to have chickens in their backyards," Keehner said.

If residents have chickens for personal use, he said, they would want to keep them healthy and clean.

Keehner said he's surprised there has been so much controversy about the issue.

"It seems like cons can be addressed with regulations in the code," he said. "You will investigate pros and cons before you make the commitment. I'm not worried about the nuisance. I'm an advocate for local food."

Commission chairman Donald Shepherd said his concern is the enforcement aspect.

Gard said that would be a dual operation between zoning and police.

"If we're charged with this, we will do it," she said.

Commission member Kristin Rosan said her law partner Tim Madison serves on Bexley City Council.

Bexley has allowed backyard chickens since late 2010.

"He said he isn't aware of any complaints," she said. "He thinks it has been a good thing for the people who participate. They haven't had issues."

Rosan said it's her sense a core group of Gahanna residents have chickens and would "come out of the shadows," and a few others are interested.

She said Bexley has about 20 residents with backyard chickens, and she would expect a similar response in Gahanna.

"This is a big commitment," Rosan said. "It isn't undertaken lightly."

Commission member Jennifer Price suggested a pilot program, allowing a limited number of permits to start.

Tom Weber, assistant city attorney, said once the city permits the birds, "The chicken is out of the barn. ... Either you decide you want this practice or you don't. Otherwise, I think you create more problems."

Price said she suggested the pilot program as a way to address questions for those who have concerns.

"I talked to several people I know who have chickens," she said. "It's a tight-knit group who raises chickens. The hens have to be healthy and not be stressed to lay."

Weber said he likes the idea of an annual permit.

"If you have a one-year program, it works or you tweak," he said.

Weber said the commission may not be in a position to make a recommendation to council following the public hearing.

Gard said commission members should contact city attorney Shane Ewald if they want something added to the draft.

"Prior to the time you make a recommendation, you may want to discuss the code," Weber said. "Council will have its own process."

@ThisWeekMarla