As the chicken or egg debate continues, so does the debate on the possibility of keeping chickens in College Township.
In a 3-1 vote, the Township Council voted to hold another public hearing regarding a proposed ordinance that would allow chickens to be kept on private property within the township.
Councilman Rich Francke voted against the motion.
Senior planner Mark Holdren explained that the ordinance had gone before the township Planning Commission, which did not recommend passing the ordinance as it is written. Some recommendations were favorable, he said, such as adding noise requirements or requiring that the coop be set closer to the owner’s residence than to the adjoining property. However, the commission recommended adding additional requirements such as keeping a chicken coop directly behind the owner’s residence, notifying neighbors of the intent to keep chickens and adding some form of screening around the coop.
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Planning Commissioner Steve Lyncha explained that requiring that a coop be directly behind the owner’s home seemed like a reasonable compromise.
“I think if chickens aren’t such a burden, then people who want them won’t have an issue having them behind their house,” he said.
Most people who have had an issue with the ordinance have shared concerns regarding the sights, sounds and smells associated with the animals, he said. With putting the coop directly behind the residence, if there is an issue with odor, for example, the odor will hit the owner first and will be dealt with immediately.
Lynch also expressed his desire to see wording added that requires the coop to be 60 feet from an adjoining property as well as within 40 feet of the owners house.
Township engineer Kent Baker explained that difficulty will arise in determining what’s “directly behind the owner’s residence” when it comes to irregularly shaped lots.
“It’s easier to define ‘directly behind the owner’s house’ when you have a rectangular-shaped lot with a house squarely in the middle of it,” he said. In cases of irregularly-shaped lots, directly behind the house could put a coop closer to an adjoining lot than if placed somewhere else on the property.
Francke, who also previously served on the planning commission, said in hindsight he wish he pushed for more than 40 feet from the adjoining property. Vice Chairwoman Mary Shoemaker said she was afraid that if the distance was pushed further, it would restrict residents from keeping chickens who would have otherwise not had a problem with their neighbors.
While the plan still has to go before the regional planning commission, the board approved setting a public hearing for Sept. 18.
In other business, Baker gave the council an update to stormwater management measures taken at the Oak Hall Regional Park project.
According to Baker, a series of swales are supposed to control the stormwater runoff on the site, diverting the water to either a retention pond or to culverts that lead the water off-site.
“The swales weren’t fully developed before the (June and July) storms (that caused flooding),” he said, “so the water was able to build up and pass the pond.”
The swales have since been clearly defined “in an almost exaggerated fashion” that will lead runoff from the baseball fields on the eastern and southern boundaries of the park either directly to the retention pond or to pipes that empty into the pond, he said. In addition, a temporary swale has been created that lead runoff from the parking lot to the pond.
“This has definitely made a difference in the recent storms,” Baker said.
An improved 18-inch culvert pipe has also been added along the access road which will help direct runoff away from the site in a safe direction, he said. The original design needed to be enhanced and exaggerated, Baker said. When it’s completed, it will be able to handle a 100-year storm.
“At this point, especially after the rain on Sunday, we’re pleased the corrective actions have been taken and are performing well,” said township Manager Adam Brumbaugh.