Zoning Commission 3/6/12

A recap of tonight: The Zoning Commission was tasked by Nicole Cromwell of the Planning Department to vote Yes or No on an amendment to city code to “clarify ambiguity” as had been advised by the city’s legal department in 2010… that while they considered the code to be clear in prohibiting chickens (as fowl), an argument COULD be made that they are not technically against code in city limits.

One person spoke in support of the amendment, expressing his desire that the Zoning Commission also add wording to prohibit rabbits and other animals, and he had written up a suggested code. The Zoning Commission explained that they were not considering that at this time.

I believe 10 people spoke in opposition to the amendment, including members of the Billings Backyard Hen Initiative. Our concern is that this code amendment will be used as an enforcement mechanism, a question also posed by new Zoning Commission member Bill Ryan. According to Ms Cromwell, the city hasn’t received any complaints of urban hens within city limits “for the past six months or so… other than self-reports.” She stated that Code Enforcement was definitely responding to complaints and enforcing the code, but that they do not “go looking for infractions”… their response is strictly complaint based.

What we do know is that none of the self-reported hen owners have received a citation, to our knowledge. We’ll see what happens from now on!

We presented them with a current list of “Major US Cities Allowing Urban Hens (as of March, 2012)”, over 150 cities (94 of the 100 largest! Up from 65% in 2008)– although some of the list included cities in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado and Washington that may not be considered by the rest of the country to be “major cities”, but nonetheless seemed appropriate comparisons for Billings.

Chairman Leonard Dailey repeated several times that the Zoning Commission was tasked with the decision of adding the words “and fowl” to the existing code, not discussing or debating the merits of urban hens. Speaker Nathan Blanding pointed out though that they had the opportunity of saying yes, no, or amending the text. Nicole Cromwell replied that the Zoning Commission could not, in this context, add text encompassing more than the published point of the text amendment (ie a new code supporting urban hens).

The Zoning Commission passed their amendment with a unanimous vote, agreeing to add these words to the amendment, and will present this to the City Council on 3/26. This will be the first of two readings of the proposed amendment adding the words “and fowl” to existing city code to prohibit urban chickens. We will need to keep showing up in force to chip away at the city council members who are resistant to this issue… so we need you there! With power in sheer numbers and the passion of those of us who believe in this strongly beneficial issue, we WILL PREVAIL! (“>


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kyle on March 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    what a sad meeting that was. minds were made up and hearts were set. sad.


  2. Posted by Catherine Lynch on March 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    How incredibly disappointing and yet, from what I’ve seen these past 9 months or so, sadly predictable. I used to wonder why this city was constantly being sued (and losing) but I wonder no more.


  3. Posted by Disappointed but Hopeful. on March 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Times are a changing . . . we’ll revisit this issue again real soon. Trust me.

    Whether it’s local or national govt., it’s about the “needs” of the people. Chickens provide pretty BASIC needs as I see it. This isn’t about growing “pot” – it’s about eggs for heavens sake. It’s about basic necessities.


  4. How does one become a member of the zoning commission? Why not try to replace everyone with supporters of individual rights to keep small, well cared for and useful pets? We don’t deny people the right to garden and tell them that they should buy from the produce section or deny people the right to train hunting dogs and tell them to buy farm produced fowl.


    • Zoning Commission… Planning Board… Animal Control Board… they’re all appointed positions and you just have to apply! I think that’s a great idea, our city DEFINITELY needs more progressive-minded but heritage-conserving people serving in public office!!!


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