Gahanna residents who have backyard chickens in violation of city code will have some time to relocate them.

Gahanna residents who have backyard chickens in violation of city code will have some time to relocate them.

A proposed recommendation to city council from the planning commission to form a new chapter of code labeled Regulation of Chickens failed 4-3 on Dec. 7.

Those voting against the measure were commission chairman Donald Shepherd and members Bobbie Burba, David Andrews and Thomas Wester. Those who were in favor of new regulations were Kristin Rosan, Jennifer Price and Joe Keehner.

Zoning Administrator Bonnie Gard said zoning had been directed by the mayor's office not to pursue residents in current violation until the matter was decided.

Following the decision, she said, the city would be sending a violation letter to known offenders, then give them time to relocate their chickens.

Anyone who doesn't comply is subject to a citation from code enforcement, she said.

During a fact-finding meeting in September, the commission learned at least seven residents were already keeping chickens on their properties.

The proposal would have allowed three chickens maximum on a property smaller than a half acre.

Shepherd said he has talked to people over and over about the issue.

"The first reaction was, 'You're doing what?' '' he said.

Without exception, he said, people couldn't believe it was being considered.

"Some think we need forward thinking all the time," Shepherd said. "I think a huge majority doesn't know it's going on. I was a Realtor over 10 years, and what a neighbor has as pets affects value.

"Secondly, in concept I don't think it's a terrible idea," he said. "We have a code that allows for chickens. You have to have a property that fits that guideline. I won't support a change."

After the decision, proponent Jeannie Hoffman said it was a shame elected city officials didn't have the opportunity to decide the issue.

Council member Stephen Renner, who initiated the proposal at constituents' requests, said he's pleased with the public dialogue and interest on the part of residents that the issue generated.

"Our constituents asked for it to be brought forward for discussion and it was introduced through the regular legislative process," Renner said. "Overall, I am convinced that the residents of Gahanna have diverse opinions on this topic and are not afraid to help examine sustainable gardening and local home-grown food support in greater detail in the future."

Keehner said he favored adding the chicken code for various reasons.

"Local food is important," he said. "it's important to have access to local food. I'm a local food advocate. It would make Gahanna more friendly to millennials."

Wester said he learned the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle.

"We have a code that works," he said. "If you have chickens, you have a one-acre lot. It works. I think the simpler the code is, the easier to enforce."

Andrews said a small number of people want chickens.

"What about the majority of people?" he asked. "I'm not ready for chickens in Gahanna. I grew up in the house I own. What about the majority of people who don't want chickens next door?"

He wondered how long neighbors would suffer if a neighbor didn't follow the proposed chicken code.

Gard estimated it could be up to two months.

Price said she struggled over the recommendation.

"I support it in concept," she said. "I feel strongly about a big part of our system that feels broken. I'll support this, but want to send a strong message to council that code enforcement needs handled."