September 5th, 2007 - Ordinance passes 7-0!!!

UPDATE!!! South Portland City Council last night passed the ordinance change with a unanimous vote of 7-0!!!!! Thanks to all the grassroots support and the hard work of the Councilors and City officials, we'll soon be able to have hens.

The first year, 20 permits will be issued, with a review at the end of the year to assess how well it's working. After that, up to 20 new permits per year may be issued. The ordinance goes into effect on Sept 25, 2007. The basics are: with an annual permit up to 6 hens allowed for personal (non-commercial) use; no roosters; hens must be kept penned or fenced; henhouses require building permit and are subject to stringent requirements re: appearance, predator-safety, and setbacks; no smell or noise nuisance allowed. We will post a link to the entire new ordinance when available.

This web site will soon be revamped to provide information and resources for people considering rainsing hens in the city. Please check back in a week or two.

Hooray for hens!

August 7th, 2007 - City Council passes the "chicken ordinance" at the 1st reading!

Hooray! Last night's City Council meeting was another long one, but the final vote was 5:2 in favort of passing the ordinance amendment, with a few changes (described below). Councilors Linda Boudreau, Maxine Beecher, Jim Hughes, Ralph Baxter, and Claude Morgan voted in favor, while Jim Soule and Kay Loring voted against, as we knew they would.

There was a GREAT turnout of supporters, thanks to everyone who showed up! Only one person stood up to speak in opposition, but about 20 spoke in favor of pet hens. Councilor Boudreau mentioned that she'd received about 360 emails of support, which is wonderful to hear. Hooray for grassroots effort!

The ordinance change must now pass the final vote at the Official Public Hearing. Due to the Council's summer vacation, that meeting won't be until Wednesday, September 5th. Let's all remember to email Councilors Beecher, Boudreau, Baxter, Hughes and Morgan before the final vote to thank them for their support of pet hens and request their continued support at the final vote!

The basic ordinance can be seen here, and the changes made last night included adding a setback distance for the henhouse of 20' from any property line, which is subject to a waiver if there is written approval from the abutting property owner following notification from the city. It was also clarified that the permit to raise chickens was only for an individual or family, not for the property, and would be lost if the permit owner was away for over 60 days.

Councilor Beecher added in the part about permit belonging to person, not property. Councilor Boudreau added the 20' setback, which is something she had been adament about at previous workshops that had gotten lost from the draft at some point, so it was not a new point. She made it clear that while she wanted to see this pass, she needed the 20' setback in order to vote yes. Although the 20' setback may place some future coops in a less-than-optimum spot in the yard (or even make it impossible on some lots), we think that by allowing a waiver based on neighbor approval, Councilor Boudreau has made a plan that will satisfy the majority, and we applaud her for working to pass this even though she personally does not want to live near chickens.

Maxine Beecher was also quite supportive, after initially having strong reservations about allowing pet hens. Jim Hughes, Ralph Baxter, and Claude Morgan were strong supporters. Kay Loring and Jim Soule were strongly against passing the ordinance, proposing further amendments such as limiting the number of permits to 15 the first year (council did not pass that, only Soule and Loring voted "yes".)


July 25, 2007- Planning Board hurdle overcome; but the need for public support grows.....

Last night's Planning Board meeting was stressful, to say the least. Long story short: they passed their part of the changes (see below) by a vote of 3:2 (two absent). It was very close. There was also some vocal opposition. One woman showed up in person, and Tex Haueser produced several other letters of opposition which were read aloud by board members :(

A month ago, supporters of chickens in SoPo flooded the City Council with emails and calls of support. This made a huge difference, we believe, at the last workshop. Since then, the story has been more public, and some people have contacted the city to voice opposition. There is bound to be opposition at the August 6th meeting, and we hope that "Peeps" supporters will be able to show up to counteract that.

We know that everyone is getting a little tired of all these meetings and emailing Councilors: well, we certainly are!!!!! But Sopo residents are SO CLOSE to being able to have a few lovely hens in our backyards... it would be such a shame for all of this hard work and wonderful public discussion to go to waste!

We've also been advised that everyone who already contacted the City Council should do so again, to refresh their memories. Please take the time to call or email ALL of the Councilors, even if you already have.

Jim Soule, 767-1343,
Kay Loring, 799-4554,
Linda Boudreau, 799-6138,
Maxine Beecher, 799-8888,

Claude Morgan, 799-5259,
Jim Hughes, 773-9118,
Ralph Baxter 799-7608

If you've any more energy for this cause, please take a moment to write a letter to the editor to the Portland Press Herald.

Thanks so much for your continued support! Pet hens in South Portland will be great for the entire community!


July 21, 2007- Planning Board hearing this week!

The Planning Board meeting and public hearing is the Tuesday, July 24th. Public input is welcome. If you have the time, please do attend!!! The meeting starts at 7pm and the schedule is supposed to be posted on the city web site, but it isn't up yet. Planning Board will be considering whether to recommend approval for the small change to Chapter 27, as follows:

Sec. 27-85. Farm animals and produce.

In the Residential District AA, the keeping of farm-type animals, including but not limited to horses, ponies, cattle, pigs, and fowl, except pet chickens as regulated in Chapter 3; the keeping of dogs, cats and rabbits for commercial purposes; and other uses offensive and detrimental to the neighborhood are prohibited. The sale of produce raised on the premises is permitted provided off-street parking spaces are provided in sufficient numbers to avoid any parking on public streets or highways. This section shall not apply to pre-existing farms as defined in Ord. Sec. 27-55.

(Ord. No. 23-78, 11-6-78; Ord.No.3-96/97, 8-5-96)

The City Council will be voting whether to enact the changes to Chapter 3 (the licensing/permit procedure that would allow chickens) on Monday August 6th. Please come and speak in support!!!


June 29, 2007- Hooray for public support and grassroots community effort!

The June 25th workshop went quite a bit longer than we expected, but had a great outcome. We're really making progress! There were about 30-40 people in the audience supporting backyard hens, and we truly believe that that presence, and ESPECIALLY all of the folks who took the time to email the city council, made an enormous difference in the outcome of the meeting. Some of the initally opposed councilors are now supporting this amendment. Councilor Linda Boudreau was the surprise champion of chickens, saying "I can't believe I am saying this, since I don't want chickens near my house, but I am sure that we can find a way to make this happen." (or something to that effect). It was also nice that Channel 6 was there to do another story, as were the reporters from the Press Herald, Sentry and Forecaster.

The most opposition came from Tex Haueser, of the City Manager's Office. He fought pretty hard to stall this but the Councilors kept going forward anyway. I believe his main worry is that allowing chickens would cause a lot more work for his colleagues. I don't think he's realizing that this won't be an enormous fad.... Councilor Hughes pointed out that there won't suddenly be hundreds of chicken-owners in SoPo. We think those that do get chickens will be responsible pet owners and good neighbors. There are unlikely to be many complaints to address, certainly less than barking/nuisance dog complaints they get already. Linda Boudreau brought up that out of the 28,000 (?) properties in the city, only 100 of them are "nuisances" and only 10 of those are repeat nuisances. The odds should be similar with chicken owners, so the amount of extra work will be minimal. The hefty application and renewal fees proposed ($50 initially, $20 annually) should cover the paperwork involved.

The orginal proposal, requiring neighbor approval, was deemed unconstitutional by Mr Haueser, so much of the meeting was spent trying to find a new way to do this. The Council decided to make it a permit & licensing procedure instead, and discussed some guidelines and restrictions. At the end of the meeting, the council voted unanimously to move the issue forward to the next City Council Meeting, vote and Public Hearing. This was assumed to be July 2. However, it turned out that there still needs to be a small zoning ordinance change passed through the Planning Board before then, so unfortunately the Public Hearing and Vote is postponed until AUGUST 6. We are hoping that everyone supporting this issue will be able to come and speak in support, especially in case of any vocal opposition. No one we have talked to is vocally opposed, but there seem to be still a few strong opposers in City Hall so you never know.

The Planning Board meeting is also a Public Hearing, but we're not yet sure we'll need to be there for that one. We'll keep you updated on that. It's July 24th.

The wording at this point (in draft stage only) is that the Zoning ordinance (Ch 27) will be changed to exempt pet hens from the prohibition against keeping livestock. Then Chapter 03 of the Code of Ordinance (Animals and Fowl) will outline the limitations and restictions on keeping pet hens, to the effect of:

Limit to 6 hens, kept for personal use only (no selling eggs/other commercial uses)

No roosters

Must be kept in an enclosed henhouse with attached outdoor wire run/pen; must be enclosed or fenced at all times.

Restrictions on the construction of the henhouse and run to encourage predator-proof and aesthetically pleasing enclosures.

Any exterior lighting must be on motion-sensor.

Must be kept a certain distance from property lines or neighbor's residences. The original proposal was 20' from property line. The draft has 20' from side or front lines, 6' from back line. We believe that South Portland should follow the example of most other cities and make the distance from neighboring DWELLINGS instead. This gives the property owner the leeway to find the best possible location on his property for all abutting property owners.

Enclosures must be kept in sanitary manner (this will be elaborated apon)

Chickens must not be a nuisance (elaborated).


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