Brookhaven, GA, June 23, 2017 – by Trey Benton – Brookhaven Councilmembers will consider making amendments to Chapter 5 of the City’s Code of Ordinances (Animals), adding more clearly defined terms regulating where and how many chickens and bees may be allowed on a homeowners property. Currently, the City Code is at best ambiguous as far as these “animals” are concerned.
At issue, a growing number of Brookhaven homeowners have chickens and bees. And when the issue came up previously, the City Council effectively decided to take a “look the other way” position and unless complaints were made, chicken and bee owners were generally left alone. Conversely, Code Enforcement wasn’t sent out on expedition to locate and hassle Brookhaven’s poultry and bee possessors.
Looking back, during a December 10, 2013 City Council Work Session The Post filmed, a general municipal code discussion took place and chickens and bees came up. Then District 2 Councilmember Jim Eyre said he was approached by several residents about allowing chickens within Brookhaven. He suggested Decatur’s ordinance be considered as a starting point for a Brookhaven ordinance. The City’s first Mayor, J. Max Davis, added he was also in support of residents having chickens and offered that perhaps the number could be tied somehow to lot size. At that time, former City Attorney Tom Kurrie explained that bees were not considered animals and Council didn’t make much of it.
Fast foward, Brookhaven leaders are now wrestling with how to make the Code more specific—under the heading of “Allow for Keeping of Domestic Fowl and for the Keeping of Bees” and are expected to take up the issues during their June 29th City Council Meeting. No proposed ordinance is included in the packet, however.
Recently, Dunwoody adopted a new “Backyard Chicken” ordinance. There, the ordinance places a limit on the number of chickens (hens only) to 6. But, in order to get a “thumbs up” from the municipality, a plan design for how and where the chickens will be kept must first be submitted. Chickens must have a coop and can not be free to roam about outside of a “run”.
In Decatur, where the first City Council suggested to use as a starting point for a Brookhaven ordinance, the keeping of fowl and small domesticated animals—such as rabbits and guinea pigs and fowl, including chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, turkeys and the like may be kept within the city. “Keepers” are subject to the following regulations: (The entire Code can be found here.)
(1) All such animals shall be provided with adequate and sanitary housing. Such houses, hutches, pens, stables, sheds, stalls and enclosures wherein domesticated animals, poultry or other fowl are kept shall have a solid floor as may be approved by the county health officer. All such houses, hutches, pens, stables, sheds, stalls and enclosures, wherever located, shall have a minimum floor space of four square feet per animal or bird over one month old.
(2) All houses, hutches, pens, stables, sheds, stalls or enclosures where such livestock, poultry or other fowl are kept shall not be nearer to any houses wherein human beings reside, other than the residence of the person who is the owner of such animals, than a distance equal to the width of the lot upon which the animals are kept, or a minimum distance of 75 feet should the lot be 75 feet or more in width.
(3) Every person owning or keeping chickens or any other domestic fowl in the city is hereby required to keep such fowl and chickens under fence and not allow such chickens or fowl to run on any property other than his own.
(4) Live slaughter shall be prohibited.
The City of Brookhaven is expected to fall somewhere between Dunwoody and Decatur—most notably specifying how many chickens are allowed which Dunwoody does and Decatur does not.
In 2016, unincorporated DeKalb County amended their zoning code to allow hens in residential districts RE, RLG, R-100, R-85, R-75, and RNC and Light Industrial (M), under certain conditions. The Code says, “The maximum number of hens shall be one hen per 2,000 square feet of lot size, provided the lot size is a minimum of 10,000 square feet, and one additional hen is allowed for each 25 square feet of fenced area per hen. No roosters are allowed under this provision.”
In Brookhaven’s Code currently, the closest thing The Post can find to a “chicken ordinance” is: “Livestock shall only be permitted on a lot containing two (2) or more acres. All buildings used for animals shall be set back not less than two hundred (200) feet from any property line. All animals shall be maintained at least one hundred (100) feet from any property line. There shall be not less than five thousand (5,000) square feet of fenced lot area not covered by the principal structure for each animal.”
For beekeeping, DeKalb’s Code says no more than eight “apiary colonies are allowed per acre, and colonies must be set back from all property lines a minimum of ten feet. Apiary colonies must be maintained responsibly with adequate space and management techniques to prevent overcrowding and swarming. In any instance in which a colony becomes a nuisance, the beekeeper must re-queen the hive.”
How Brookhaven will regulate Beekeeping is perhaps more of a mystery, although it appears they will take a shot at solving it. If they decide to use the City of Decatur as a model, in 2016, Decatur declared their City to be a “Bee City USA“. This designation aligns Decatur with Bee City USA’s charge to foster “ongoing dialogue in urban areas to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in our communities and what each of us can do to provide them with healthy habitat.”
According to Bee City USA, participants agree to a program that “endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators, which are vital to feeding the planet.”
What do you think? How should Brookhaven address the “Keeping of Domestic Fowl and for the Keeping of Bees”? Tell us below in Comments.