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Forest Hills Council Takes Next Step to Allow Urban Farming

Forest Hills officials are expected to move forward with allowing residents to raise chickens and bees.

Forest Hills residents interested in raising bees and chickens might be able to do so in the next few months—but they want people in the community to be educated about urban farming.

Next Wednesday, borough council is expected to approve the advertisement of an ordinance regulating the raising of bees and chickens. Once the proposed law is publicly advertised, officials will be ready to approve or reject it in June.

Council had discussed separating the bee and chicken ordinances, but during a straw vote, the majority agreed to keep them together. Councilman Mike Belmonte said he hoped to hold off on the matter in an attempt to educate the community about urban farming.

Officials agreed to continue with the process to pass the law and to hold a town hall meeting before June for anyone who wants to learn more.

Since the issue surfaced months ago, residents have been equally split. Those in favor of changing the ordinance highlighted a resident's freedom of choice to live greener lifestyles, and to eat fresh, organic food. Those opposing it submitted petitions and raised concerns about safety, health, enforcement and property values.

After hearing from bee and chicken raising experts, officials drafted a proposed ordinance. Some of the key points include the following:

Bees

Requirements would include registering all bee colonies with the state in accordance to state law, applying for an annual permit, undergoing a one-time inspection with the borough code enforcement officer and taking an introductory bee keeping class.

Bee colonies also should be located at least 10 feet from an owner's property line (50 feet if there's a pool or an animal that mainly stays outside), and that residents limit hives to two for every 2,000 square feet of property.

Bees must be kept in modern movable frame hives, and the borough can seize and destroy hives if they are a nuisance. Hives must face away from neighboring properties, they can't be kept in front yards and a water source must be available from April to November.

Chicken

Residents can keep four hens at most per property, and they only can be kept in residential areas. Hens must be enclosed in a coop or fenced in at all times. Coops must be aesthetically pleasing, and they must be kept 25 feet from neighboring residences.

Residents can't slaughter their chickens, and they are not allowed to keep roosters. Chicken waste can be used as compost, otherwise it must be properly disposed of.

Once the ordinance is approved for advertisement, officials said they would post it on the borough website.

Officials said Councilwoman Devon Wood spent hours upon hours researching the matter and drafting the ordinance.

Wood said she worked hard in an effort to "craft one of the best ordinances out there."

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Little Wheaties May 10, 2013 at 03:50 PM
It's progressive as far as it goes however it should be expanded to include 3rd world landscaping,i.e. lawn, empty lot, and hillside maintainence.
Donnalee Dodson May 10, 2013 at 04:52 PM
What does 3rd World landscaping mean?
Jon Holmes May 10, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Here, here. I too am very impressed with Devon's efforts and leadership around this issue. I wish the discussion hadn't become so adversarial from the start (it's not clear to me how we all got off on the wrong foot), because even though I am firmly pro-backyard chicken, I think it's totally legitimate for less enthusiastic residents to express their concerns and expect to be taken seriously. I missed the May 2nd meeting and haven't seen the full draft ordinance, but the highlights I have read suggest that the legislation has been very thoughtfully put together and would be a solid step forward for the borough. Neighbors I chatted with before moving here last year characterized Forest Hills as being on the upswing after a long period of struggle. To me, this seems like part of that upswing, but even positive change can be scary and it takes real courage and vision to negotiate it.
Jon Holmes May 10, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Somewhere the internet must have a picture of chickens living in a compact car. Ah, here we go: http://www.google.com/imgres?client=firefox-a&hs=U3C&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1047&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=9RnwyNIbVn-AtM:&imgrefurl=https://plus.google.com/108413597447248376486/posts/2UGam6ffGi5&docid=UQV6JnsOSk4bYM&imgurl=https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-NsUdAIStzeU/URFovdsL3JI/AAAAAAAAGmI/EyMvTkJ3NZU/w497-h373/photo.jpg&w=497&h=373&ei=nSuNUamuCZTj4AOeqYHYAg&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:12,s:0,i:172&iact=rc&dur=1374&page=2&tbnh=179&tbnw=239&start=8&ndsp=12&tx=165&ty=82
Luna May 16, 2013 at 04:12 PM
I am so pleased to read this news! I'm excited to see our borough taking steps to be a part of the sustainable living movement. Many thanks to Ms. Wood and the community efforts to see this ordinance through.

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