MANSFIELD -- The group known as Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens is back again, this time proposing a pilot program that would allow a limited number of individuals to keep chickens in the city for a certain period of time.
"Basically what we want to do is come back with the backyard chickens (proposal) and propose it as a pilot program," said Matthew Stanfield, the group's chairman.
"Our arguments haven't changed. I'm sure our opponents' arguments haven't changed. What we're just asking for is an opportunity to try it for a year-and-a-half to two years with a limited number of people, see it how it goes, and then evaluate it again at the end of that time."
The proposal would limit the number of participants to 24 for up to two years. The city would then evaluate how the program worked and decide if it should be enacted city-wide.
Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens first approached city council in February 2016 with a proposal that would allow more residents to raise chickens in the city. (See how the chickens conversation evolved at the left).
The group's proposal -- which was shot down by council at a March 2017 meeting -- would have allowed a maximum of six chickens on a property less than one-quarter acre in size and a maximum of 12 chickens on a property larger than one-quarter acre and smaller than three acres. Chickens are currently allowed in city limits on properties three acres or larger.
"It was brought up by several councilman last time, a suggestion that why don't we have it as a temporary basis to see how it works, rather than putting something into law that is in effect for everybody right away," said group member Deborah Mount.
Before submitting its new draft for review by the law department, the group spoke with J.R. Rice, manager of codes and permits, and Richland Public Health to address some of the concerns voiced by citizens at previous council meetings. Concerns ranged from noise, smell and potential harmful effects on property values, to risk of disease and more.
As part of the new draft, applicants would be required to obtain neighbors' signatures if the chicken coop would be within 30 feet of the neighbors' houses, in order for them to be able to receive a permit.
Code currently prohibits structures from being built 10 feet or less from a property line.
"This would give an additional buffer zone if you're on a small plot that you have to get with your neighbor if you're within 30 feet of their house," Mount said.
No legislation is on the floor yet for council's consideration. There will be a zoning committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 6:15 p.m. on the third floor of the municipal building to discuss the pilot program.