Action Alert further down the page.)
The proposed Food Producing Animals (FPA) ordinance is at a critical place. It is important to show our support in order to hold on to the improvements that we've been working on for the last 2 years. The ordinance is now sitting in City Council's Land Use, Infrastructure, and Transportation (LUTI) committee. LUTI is charged with evaluating the ordinance, modifying it if necessary, and then passing it along to the full City Council for a vote.
The bad news is that there are a couple of neighborhood activists that have been strongly lobbying for significant changes to the proposed ordinance. Those of us who have been advocating for this issue for a long time understand that compromise is part of the process. However, if these neighborhood activists are successful in getting their way, it would effectively gut much of the progress in the ordinance, and continue to make it unnecessarily difficult for urban residents to raise small numbers of backyard chickens, ducks, and dwarf goats.
It is critical that we take a stand for the ordinance as it is currently written. If we don't stand for the current ordinance, it will be easier for those that oppose it to continue to drag the various provisions backward. A significant amount of thought and care went into crafting the proposed ordinance, and its guidelines are well in line with successful FPA ordinances in other cities.
One more piece of important information before we move into the Action Alert... The two aforementioned neighborhood activists took their case to INC this weekend. INC is the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation. The idea behind INC is that each Registered Neighborhood Organization (RNO) will send a representative to serve at INC. However, though there are over 200 RNOs in the city, only 20 or so were represented at Saturday's INC meeting.
The INC folks are generally long-time neighborhood activists. They're often retired (or of retirement age) and fit within a certain demographic. As you can imagine, the demands to significantly alter the proposed Food Producing Animals ordinance were generally embraced by the people at INC. While they are certainly entitled to their individual opinions, the unfortunate fact is that INC often tries to present itself as the "voice of the neighborhoods." You live in a Denver neighborhood, as do I. INC doesn't speak for us, and it's important that we remind our City Councilmembers of this fact.
The ways in which the neighborhood activists want to alter the proposed ordinance can be found in the sample email below. Please feel free to use the sample email in its entirety, cut and paste what you'd like, or create something of your own from scratch. My only request is that you keep the subject line intact -- we'd like to send a unified message to the members of the LUTI committee who will be deciding whether to drastically alter the proposed ordinance.
Please send your email to the following members of City Council. You can do one email that cc's all of them. It's also ok that some of these people aren't your designated representative -- they sit on the LUTI committee, so they're working on behalf of all of Denver right now.
and cc: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Don't change the proposed ordinance -- INC doesn't speak for me!
Dear Members of the LUTI committee:
I am a resident of Denver, living in the ______ neighborhood. I wanted to let you know that I support the proposed Food Producing Animals (FPA) ordinance as it is currently written. I believe that the proposed ordinance strikes a fair balance between supporting the rights of individual property owners and protecting neighbors from adverse impacts. In addition, the current guidelines within the proposed ordinance fall well within the range of what is occurring in other cities with successful FPA ordinances.
I understand that INC may be issuing a position statement asking for various parts of the ordinance to be changed. INC does not speak for me, nor do they speak for a number of my Denver friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.
I would like the following provisions in the proposed FPA ordinance to remain intact:
No needless RNO/neighbor notification -- Some RNOs have expressed concern that public notification will not occur for a limited number of FPAs under the proposed ordinance. Standards for public notification should be based on impact. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that 8 female fowl and 2 dwarf goats would cause significant impact to a neighborhood. Many people in Denver are currently raising these animals, and state that their neighbors have absolutely no idea that the animals exist. We do not require public notice/input for up to 3 dogs (even if these dogs weigh 150 pounds each and have the potential to bark and bite). It is patently unfair and illogical to require public notice for 8 female fowl and 2 dwarf goats, when there is no evidence of negative impact on neighborhoods. Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles allow the keeping of a specified number and/or type of FPAs without public notification. Seattle used to allow up to 3 chickens and 3 dwarf goats without a permit. They experienced so few problems that in 2010 they upped their allowed numbers to 8 chickens and 3 dwarf goats.
No annual permitting fee -- Other cities that have adopted FPA ordinances have not reported an increased burden to city agencies because of enforcement. There is no logical reason for requiring ongoing annual permitting fees for animal that don't require vaccinations for public health reasons (like dogs and cats do). Many people who wish to raise backyard FPAs are doing so because they want access to healthy, affordable food. While chickens and goats do pay for themselves, there are some costs associated with their care. Adding unjustified annual fees to that amount would unduly burden Denver residents, especially low-income families who stand to benefit the most from access to affordable food. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Colorado Springs all allow a specified number and/or type of FPAs with no permit and no fees.
10 foot separation between FPA structure and a neighbor's dwelling unit -- The proposed 10 foot separation (coupled with noise, odor, and nuisance regulations) is adequate to balance potential impacts on neighbors with the ability of Denver residents to enjoy reasonable use of their property. The suggested 25 foot separation would effectively "zone out" many Denver residents from the ability to keep FPAs. There are people in Denver who are currently keeping FPAs with a shelter 10 feet from their neighbor's dwelling, and they haven't experienced any problems. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles do not have any shelter distance requirements for the keeping of FPAs. Seattle successfully requires just a 10 foot separation from a neighbor's dwelling.
Permeable space requirement -- Respected chicken keeping books cite a minimum space requirement of 4 square feet per bird. Denver's proposed ordinance asks for 10 square feet per bird, which is 2.5 times what is listed in some books and 20 times the amount of space that factory farm chickens have access to. Urban backyard chicken keepers acknowledge 10 square feet of space as a respectable standard -- this would equal a minimum of 80 total square feet of wandering room for anyone who kept 8 hens. While many chicken owners may opt to voluntarily provide their birds with more than the required minimum, I believe that the suggestion of mandating 16 square feet of space per bird is unnecessary and is not supported by successful FPA ordinances in other cities. Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Fort Collins do not include any permeable space requirements in their ordinances.
Shelter space requirement -- The shelter space requirement in the proposed ordinance is addressing the predator-proof, nighttime enclosure for chickens. Because chickens go blind and don't move at night, a relatively small space (1 square foot per bird) is adequate for containing them. Chicken owners generally provide their birds with some form of shelter/shade/structure to daytime shelter when it's needed (which isn't very often with Colorado's low precipitation rates), but whatever daytime shelter is provided doesn't need to meet the construction standards of the predator-proof, nighttime enclosure. Asking that an excessively large (4 square feet per bird) nighttime enclosure be required would not only present an unnecessary cost burden to the chicken owner, but also leaves the chickens at greater risk of frostbite during winter nights. Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles do not include any space minimums for chicken shelters in their FPA ordinances.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. I look forward to seeing the LUTI committee vote on April 5th to move the proposed ordinance, in its current form, through to City Council.