The Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission voted 5-3 Thursday to reject Christopher Lewis’ request for a special use permit to keep hens in his back yard for eggs and as a learning tool for his home-schooled children.
The issue of regulating poultry inside the city limits, however, will be on the planning commission’s January agenda for further discussion.
“The opposition could be local (to the Lewises) and the support citywide,” member Nathan Roberts said.
This is the second time the planning commission recommended denial of the Lewis case, but it’s become somewhat of a symbol for the growing urban poultry movement. Supporters and opponents have both weighed in with letters, calls and testimony.
It’s also the second time City Commissioners have decided against loosening restrictions on raising chickens in Rome. But recognizing that it’s happening anyway, they sent Lewis’ application back to the planning commission with instructions to see if adding conditions could make it more palatable.
Roberts argued that Lewis has since erected screen fencing on both sides of his yard and ensured the coops are kept at least 30 feet from his lot lines.
“He’s trying to be a good neighbor,” Roberts said.
But Frank Brown noted that the hens were established without the required special use permit, which was sought only after a complaint was filed.
“This came here because of the neighbors,” he said.
Roberts and members Charles Jackson and Christian Terry voted in favor of the permit. Brown and members Elaina Beeman, Joel Holcomb, Terry Jones and Ronnie Kilgo were against it.
City commissioners allowed Lewis to keep his hens until his application is decided — a public hearing is scheduled for the board’s Dec. 17 meeting — but placed a moratorium on new applications until the issue is settled.
During an informal discussion last month the elected board indicated it would not support an automatic permitting process.
The appointed planning commission is expected to consider beefing up regulations governing special use permits and further limiting the zoning districts or lot sizes where poultry could be allowed.