The Pierce County Planning Commission decided to move forward with its recommendations for expanding poultry and livestock laws within Pierce County’s urban growth area after lengthy discussion and public testimony on Tuesday, March 22.
The Planning Commission has submitted their amendments to the County Council, which will hear testimony and vote on whether to approve the suggestions sometime in the first week of April.
The modifications to Title 18A zoning provide greater flexibility to residents who wish to keep and raise poultry and small animals, said the Planning Commission. The main change is a backyard and side-yard setback of 15 feet, which allows residents with smaller urban and rural lots the opportunity to keep their poultry and have more flexibility for coop placement. It also prohibits owning roosters, male turkeys and peacocks.
This comes after much debate from residents from the Midland community, specifically the Self-Reliant Community of Midland. They wanted more opportunities to practice urban farming on personal property.
" 'Continuity planning' for larger farms in Mid-County (really everywhere) is an issue due to aging farm owners & their kids not desiring to take over the family farm,” wrote Summit-Waller resident Phillip Brooke in an open letter to Toni Fairbanks, the chief clerk for Pierce County. “In Pierce County, allowing mini-farms on smaller parcels will play a significant role in cultivating a new generation of farmers to pass along our larger farms and open space, as it has done elsewhere.”
Much like the , residents in a rural area considered "urban" by zoning standards seek a balance in the ability to own livestock but still be good neighbors.
“I agree that individuals should be allowed to keep poultry and small animals such as sheep and goats—kept for personal use (such as eggs, wool fleece and goat milk, etc.) for personal use, on parcels less than one acre,” said Fredrickson resident Kelly Mainard in another open letter to Fairbanks. “These animals have minimal impact on property compared to the vast benefits an individual and family can reap through raising and caring for small stock animals. Often, keeping small animals enhances the environment and property as well.”
At the meeting, Planning and Land Services proposed an amendment to existing laws, providing an exception that reduces the back- and side-yard setbacks from 45 to 15 feet, while limiting the type of poultry. On urban lots less than one acre, as many as six poultry hens and small animals in any combination are allowed. Roosters, peacocks and male turkeys are prohibited, because of the noise.
On rural lots of less than one acre, as many as 12 poultry hens and small animals in any combination are allowed. Roosters, peacocks and male turkeys are still prohibited.
Animal enclosures, for both urban and rural lots less than one acre, have a minimum setback of 15 feet from any adjacent interior or rear lot line. The minimum setback of any enclosure from the front lot line is 45 feet.
The Planning Commission argued that reducing the backyard and side-yard setbacks from 45 to 15 feet will allow more residents with smaller urban and rural lots to keep chickens, while still considering their neighbors’ view. Reduced setback can also offer more flexibility about where the animals can be housed.
For lots from one acre to less than five, livestock shall not exceed two animals older than 12 months. No more than 12 poultry, peacocks, rabbits or other small animals in any combination are permitted per acre.
There shall be no restrictions on the number of livestock or small animals for lots larger than five acres.
The Planning Staff decided on these recommendations after discussions with urban agriculturalists and studies on urban farms in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma. Many urban agriculturalists discouraged rooster, peacock and male turkeys because they don’t lay eggs and create the biggest noise annoyance.