Bok bok – Decatur discusses chickens

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 17, 2014
Some chickens. Source: Wikimedia commons

Some chickens. Source: Wikimedia commons

The city of Decatur wants to figure out how many farm animals people should be allowed to keep in their yards.

The city held a workshop on sustainability on Wednesday, April 16. It’s one of several workshops being held about the zoning code rewrite, called the Unified Development Ordinance. The city commission will consider adopting the UDO this fall. In addition to barnyard fauna, the workshop also tackled energy efficiency and whether landlords should offer leases with “unbundled parking” (more on that concept in a bit).

Caleb Racicot with city consultant TSW and Associates said the current city code allows an unlimited number of chickens, in theory. Planning Director Amanda Thompson said the number of chickens is only limited by the amount of space a homeowner can provide for them.

The code on space requirements for chickens enforced only when people complain, Thompson said.

“We don’t drive around and look for chickens,” she said.

The city is also considering whether to allow residents to keep potbellied pigs and pygmy goats on their property.

Much of the discussion on Wednesday focused on energy efficiency.

As the city of Decatur discusses overhauling its zoning codes, it is considering regulations to increase energy efficiency in homes and buildings.

What the city wants to figure out is whether to simply encourage greener homes or require it by city code.

Lena Stevens, the city’s resource conservation coordinator, led the discussion on green buildings. She said the city currently has some things in its code already, like requiring water efficient fixtures. She said what’s up for consideration now is how much further the city wants to go with it.

“I don’t want to get in a position where I’m making it sound like the sky is falling. We have good base level implementation,” she said. “What we’re talking about are future possibilities.”

Among those future possibilities …

Home selling and purchasing: 

– Requiring or encouraging a seller of a home or building to disclose data about energy usage to a buyer.

– Requiring or encouraging an energy audit as part of the sale and purchase process.

– Requiring or encouraging home appraisers to have a “green certification”

– Requiring  or encouraging a home retrofit on resale.

Home renovations and additions: 

– Requiring or encouraging standards for projects that would include things like more insulation and higher efficiency fixtures.

– Requiring or encouraging a comprehensive high performance building standards that go beyond what’s required in the current code and asking for third-party verification to ensure those standards are met.

New construction and substantial renovation: 

– Requiring or encouraging a comprehensive high performance building standards that go beyond what’s required in the current code and asking for third-party verification to ensure those standards are met. The city also wants to know if builders should be allowed to use LEED or Earthcraft standards as an alternative way to comply with those tougher building standards.

New commercial and multifamily construction: 

– Requiring or encouraging a comprehensive high performance building standards that go beyond what’s required in the current code and asking for third-party verification to ensure those standards are met. The city also wants to know if builders should be allowed to use LEED or Earthcraft standards as an alternative way to comply with those tougher building standards.

Stevens said that adopting a comprehensive standard for building in the city might not be as complicated as it sounds.

She said a comprehensive approach, “Looks at a building holistically starting from the design process all the way to the end. It would require somebody with the skills knowledge expertise and attention to detail.”

So how much would these new regulations cost a seller or buyer?

Stevens said she couldn’t provide a standard estimate for what it might take to implement these new standards because everyone’s situation is different.

“I worked really hard to get you numbers,” she said. “It doesn’t really exist because everything is based on circumstance and it’s based on your goals.”

Mike Barcik, who is director of technical services for environmental consultant Southface, attended the meeting and said afterward that the costs of making a building greener might increase by one or two percent overall.

“It depends on what you’re going to do,” he said.

The unbundled parking idea is intended to allow greater flexibility for residents who don’t own a car. Racicot said he hasn’t owned a car for 15 years. He said the city is considering requiring landlords to offer tenants two leases: one for renting the space and one for renting a parking spot.

“That requirement for people who do not own cars to rent spaces and buy spaces and not to have the option to opt out has a very real environmental impact,” he said.

Today the city requires a minimum of one parking space per unit for residential construction and a minimum of one parking space per 500 square feet for commercial.

It was a busy evening. In addition to all that, the workshop focused on whether to implement regulations to control light pollution.

“Decatur lacks regulations to reduce night pollution,” Racicot said. “Night pollution is when you go out and see the sky above you is pink. That kind of pollution is growing more widespread. That kind of light pollution can have significant environmental impacts, (like) negative impacts on migrating animals. Light pollution at night can actually harm your health.”

Among the things being considered are regulations that would limit how bright lights can be and requiring cut-off fixtures that direct lights downward instead of into the air.

Anyone who wants to comment on these proposals can do so by clicking here.

 

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Kupe

    Interesting stuff. I need to start joining in the conversation and attend these meetings. The ideas thrown out feel like things that should self regulate. Requiring or encouraging an energy audit? If people buying homes want this then it will be part of the buying process. Requiring landlords to have two lease options related to car ownership? I don’t feel government should be involved at this level. If a landlord wants to be more competitive and they feel they can increase rentals by having two types of leases then they will do that. this is no different than having an extra fee for pets. Let the free market work this stuff out.

  • Chris Billingsley

    For those of us in Decatur who believe the city planning process, from the two Strategic Plans to the UDO meetings, has always been rigged in favor of expanding government, more regulation and control, and increasing the influence of liberal special interest groups, this meeting was typical. The presenters made no effort to explain the benefits of “No New Regulations” but surprised me in their enthusiastic support for new rules. The first presenter identified herself as a “passionate supporter of environmental sustainability”. She invited her friends in the green building movement to the meeting to act as experts should any of us have questions about the proposed regulations. When asked about the effect of these proposals on the city’s goal of more affordable housing, she hesitated and allowed the director of development to interrupt with something like, “We’re working on resolving this”. When I asked for specific information showing the increase in costs to a $50,000 renovation, I was told that “this is coming and the commissioners will have it before June”. The second presenter began by telling us that recent science confirms the dangerous effects of light pollution. Both individuals appeared to me to be cheerleaders for more regulation. At the very least, city employees and their hired consultants should appear to be impartial.
    Based on the information that was presented at the meeting, I would strongly oppose additional code regulations for new commercial and residential buildings and renovations. I also oppose additional requirements on the sale of property. These proposals would greatly increase building costs and the power of government in our lives. I would also oppose any new regulations on residential lighting. I am concerned that unbundled parking will lead to more visitors parking in residential neighborhoods. The only item I had any support for was possible new regulations on animals. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be living next to someone who owns numerous farm animals like chickens, goats, pot belly pigs and cats. I would like to see what specific limits are being considered and if it seems reasonable.
    But don’t even think about more regulations concerning dogs.

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