The draft ordinance to regulate backyard hens in residential areas, however, appeared to move the city at least one step away from where they left the issue on two other occasions this year.
“It looks like our original decision to not allow chickens in the city has gone by the wayside,” Mayor Evie McNiece said.
The board has asked the Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission to revisit the question at its Dec. 6 meeting and to send recommendations for consideration.
Planning Director Sue Hiller looked at ordinances in other areas and cobbled together a three-page document to show the citizen board. But elected officials who viewed it in advance found a lot to dislike.
“This is not going with our blessings,” Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter said.
As presented, the ordinance sets up strict conditions that would let people get annual permits to keep as many as four hens for personal use.
As long as the requirements are met, the poultry would be allowed by right in four zoning districts: agricultural residential, suburban residential, high-density traditional residential and low-density traditional residential.
“I don’t want them in SR districts at all,” Commissioner Bill Irmscher said.
Commissioner Kim Canada’s complaint was that a use-by-right means people would not have to come before the board for a permit — it would be handled administratively at the City Clerk’s office.
“Once you make it universal, the public is taken out of the process,” he said. “If you require a special use permit, it allows for public input on each one.”
Enforcement also would be an issue, several board members said, but Commissioner Jamie Doss said that’s an issue with many local laws regarding property use.
“A lot of our ordinances are citizen-enforced,” he said. “Like requiring all dogs to be on a leash, if someone calls us we’ll enforce it.”
Assistant City Manager Sammy Rich said the draft is meant only as a foundation for discussion, and the planning commission is likely to have similar concerns at its next session. “These are rules other communities have adopted. You can pick and choose what would work best here,” Rich said. “But the overriding question is still, do you want to allow chickens in the city limits?”