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Phoenix planners hear testimony on poultry issue

PHOENIX — The Planning Commission sat down to talk about chickens Monday evening.

Some city residents want to have a few laying hens, but the municipal code doesn't allow farm animals of any kind.

To no one's surprise, there were people who spoke in favor of barnyard fowl, others who wanted to keep poultry outside city limits, and even some who wanted to find a compromise.

The subject came up because at two C Street residents, Brook Knudsen and her fiance Zeb Herinckx, keep chickens and bees on their property.

Neighbors on B Street complained, including Joan Smith, who was concerned about hygiene issues associated with chickens, and the potential danger of swarming bees.

Knudsen, who came to the meeting along with a small flock of supporters, spoke of the advantages of eating fresh eggs and the recycling benefits associated with chickens, who make short work of food scraps.

Smith also spoke. She said if farm animals such as bees and chickens are to be allowed, the council should consider banning them from areas around schools or in apartments.

City officials reviewed other city ordinances about farm animals and evaluated language in the Phoenix code.

Micki Summerhays, planning commission chairwoman, said the code language was not specific enough.

Summerhays noted that cities in the region come down on both sides of the chicken question. Rogue River, for example, does not allow fowl within city limits, even though it touts itself as the home of an annual rooster-crowing competition.

Medford's code is silent on the issue, which effectively allows chickens by not banning them, but leaves room for regulating them through a noise ordinance and other regulations.

Terry Helfrich, a member of the planning commission, said he was open to revising the ordinances so they work effectively for residents who want to keep chickens responsibly.

Several planning commission members approved of an idea to set a 100-pound limit on small farm animals, which would allow animals such as pot-belly pigs, which have been popular pets.

Knudsen said she was happy with how the meeting went.

"My goal is not to have it so everybody can have tons of livestock," she said, "but I'm glad they're open to finding something that'll work for everyone. I want the city to hear everyone's concerns and find out everything they need to know."

Testimony and comments from residents and planning commission members will be forwarded to the City Council and it could be on the council's agenda for its Aug. 17 meeting.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.