I know that waiting for your city's government to implement change can be like watching that proverbial pot and waiting for it to boil... sometimes it seems as though it's NEVER going to happen. However (sticking with our analogy) with enough heat applied over time, there will eventually be a change in the water.
Our wish for a comprehensive Food-Producing Animals (FPA) ordinance received an extra burst of "heat" recently with the formation of the Mayor's Sustainable Food Policy Council (SFPC). The SFPC's agenda will be diverse, covering a multitude of issues -- one of which is FPAs.
Right now a couple of members of the SFPC are working with folks from City Council and city staff (Department of Environmental Health/Animal Control and Community Planning & Development) to sketch an outline for a comprehensive FPA ordinance. The process began with a thorough evaluation of successful FPA ordinances in major cities across the country, and other Front Range cities close to Denver. We compiled information in 20 categories each for fowl and for dwarf goats, looking at everything from the number of animals allowed to the complaint threshold for enforcement. This group is using the successful ordinances in other cities as a springboard for an outline of what is most appropriate for Denver. For example, an ordinance allowing 8 female fowl and 2 dwarf dairy goats is well supported by what other cities are doing.
This group will present their outline of ideas to the SFPC in January. The SFPC (which consists of community leaders in the areas of food access/justice, schools, urban agriculture, public health, and more) will discuss the draft ordinance outline, bring it to their respective organizations for review, and then help formulate a final ordinance during their February meeting. At that point the proposed ordinance will enter the city's standard review process, which includes the Denver Planning Board, the Mayor-Council meeting, a City Council committee, and finally the full City Council for a vote (likely in April).
I know that all of this may sound like a tiring amount of "process," and that it has taken a while to get to this point. However, the advantage of passing an ordinance like this through City Council is that we can create a real win-win, both for FPA owners and the city as a whole. The new proposed ordinance will allow the keeping of a designated number of FPAs (probably 8 female fowl and 2 dwarf dairy goats) without the financial and logistical challenges of our current permitting process. Moreover, we will be able to structure this new ordinance with a few common sense guidelines to appease the nay-sayers out there. For example, we may ask that chicken owners have 4 square feet of permeable ground space per bird, which will effectively silence those who argue against FPAs by saying that people will be keeping chickens on balconies or in apartments.
Right now there are several City Councilmembers who have said that they would support a comprehensive ordinance like the one the Sustainable Food Policy Council will likely put forth, and there are several more Councilmembers who are "on the fence." I believe that we can get this passed in April, but in order to do that there are 3 things that need to happen:
1. The Sustainable Food Policy Council needs to work proactively with city staff to craft and recommend an ordinance for City Council adoption
2. The FPA advocates (like Sustainable Food Denver) need to join the SFPC in supporting the ordinance
3. Denver constituents need to contact their councilmembers and state clearly that they would like this ordinance to pass
#3 is where you can make a real difference on this issue. The City Councilmembers need to weigh the pros and cons of this issue, but they are ultimately beholden to their constituents. If you haven't already, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your council district, so you can be on the "Action Team" email list. Please be on the lookout for emails and postings from Sustainable Food Denver, prompting you to call or email your councilmember. Try to enlist 5 of your friends or co-workers to join the cause. I believe that, as long as the voices in favor of FPAs are heard loud and clear, we can get the ordinance we want passed through City Council.
Thank you in advance for your help!