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Keeping Livestock Ordinance Amendments
On June 27, 2017, City Council approved a resolution that directs the Planning Commission to consider and make recommendations concerning proposed amendments to Articles 3, 6, 10, and 14 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance to clarify and correct provisions related to the keeping of livestock on residential properties in the A-1, Agricultural District and the RE-1, Residential Estate District.
Staff is working closely with stakeholder groups, including the Chesapeake Small Farmers Coalition, Agricultural Advisory Commission, and the local chapter of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, to ensure the proposed ordinance reflect the needs of the agricultural community.
What the proposed ordinance will do:
Resolve conflicting sections of the Zoning Ordinance regarding the keeping of livestock on properties zoned A-1 and RE-1.
Will ensure consistent interpretation and enforcement of regulations related to the keeping of livestock on properties zoned A-1 and RE-1.
What the proposed ordinance will not do:
Will not take away the ability to keep livestock, including horses, on smaller A-1 and RE-1 zoned properties.
Will not impact the ability to keep honey bees in residential zoning districts.
Will not impact the ability to keep hens in residential zoning districts.
Will not rezone any property.
Progress Thus Far:
At its October 11, 2017 meeting, the Planning Commission voted to continue this item 90 days to the January 10, 2018 Planning Commission meeting.
A workshop was held on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office Administration Building, 401 Albemarle Drive. City staff sought public input regarding the proposed definitions of livestock and animal unit, how livestock should be regulated, and where livestock structures should be permitted, among other proposed changes to the ordinance.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments at its January 10th meeting. The public is welcome to attend this meeting and speak directly to Commissioners regarding the proposed amendments. All pertinent dates and information will be posted to this webpage, so check back often.
If you have any questions regarding this effort or would like to submit your comments regarding proposed amendments, please contact the Planning Department at 757-382-6176 or send an email at email@example.com.
The latest draft of proposed amendments, dated December 6, 2017, is now available. This iteration reflects a significant shift from previous draft ordinances by not regulating the quantity of livestock in the A-1 zoning district. Staff determined that restricting such an agricultural use was not fulfilling the intent and purpose of the Agricultural zoning district. This shift is also consistent with the community's desire to reduce the regulatory burden on agricultural lands. Livestock in the RE-1 zoning district continues to be regulated using the animal units method as previously proposed.
Questions raised by citizens and responses from City staff are presented below for your information.
- Will there be grandfathering? Especially on setbacks? Fencing? Barns? Animal Enclosures?
Nonconforming uses that were lawfully commenced may continue, and nonconforming buildings and structures that were lawfully constructed may remain, provided the regulations in Article 15 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance are followed.
- What does "permitted accessory use" mean?
A "permitted accessory use" is an accessory use (defined in Section 3-403 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance) that is permitted by right.
- How does 4 horses equal 1 cow? Where is the supporting documentation for any and all animal unit requirements? Why has swine been removed from the animal units altogether?
The proposed animal unit for horses was designed to maintain the current allowance of one horse for every 10,000 square feet (equivalent to approximately 4 horses per acre or 12 horses per 3-acre lot). Swine have not been removed. Swine are permitted in A-1 Districts only (subject to the regulations in Chapter 10 of the City Code), which is current law. As for the other proposed animal units, staff reviewed other Virginia localities and used them as a model when drafting these requirements. Staff also sought the advice of the City's Agricultural Extension Agent, Mr. Watson Lawrence. Staff is still researching this issue and seeking opinions from other associations and groups with expertise in this area. We welcome any comments or suggestions on this issue.
- How did you determine the amount of animal units per acreage? Where is the supported documentation for this?
The animal units per acre were determined using ordinances in other Virginia localities, in particular, Fairfax County. The animal units were reviewed by the City's Extension Agent, Mr. Watson Lawrence, who did not voice objections other than to note the discrepancy with horses. Staff also considered current regulations and sought to maintain consistency and ensure that the proposed amendments do not reduce the number of animals allowed under current law. Staff also discovered a clerical (decimal) error with the chicken and rabbit animal unit denominations, which will be corrected in the next version of the amendment.
- If animal units is used because it shows best farming practice - - -taking into consideration waste management, grazing land, and weight of the animal....why does this only pertain to small farms under 10 acres? And not larger farms?
The animal units are not intended to regulate best management practices. They represent reasonable land use standards relating to mitigation of adverse impact on adjacent properties. City staff welcomes any suggestions for improving the proposed animal unit standards.
- Define "development standards"?
The next version of the amendment will clarify that the term "development standards" as used in Section 10-502 means regulations such as minimum lot area and setbacks set out in Section 6-300 - 6-302 and those use restrictions set out in Section 6-2000 - 6-2003 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance.
- Why are we combining A-1 and Residential Estates together? If a land is purchased A-1, how can the city say or change the land to residential estates? Why is the City trying to make more restrictions on A-1?
The amendment does not combine A-1 and RE-1 Districts; nor does it change the zoning of any property; nor does it impose greater livestock restrictions on A-1 properties 10 acres or more in size. Under current provisions of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance, A-1 properties are restricted to 1 horse, pony, cow, sheep, goat and other livestock, with the exception of hogs, per 5,000 square feet of lot area (see Section 10-503.C.1). Under the amendment, A-1 properties consisting of 10 acres or more are relieved of the 1 per 5,000 square foot restriction. A-1 lots consisting of less than 10 acres will be permitted to keep livestock in accordance with the animal unit tables, rather than be subject to current standards for properties used primarily for residential use at 1 animal per 10,000 square feet. Notably, the City did amend the language in Section 10-502 to clarify that A-1 properties that are improved with a residence shall no longer be subject to the RE-1 table of permitted and conditional uses.
- Why is the City reducing the amount of our taxed land to reduce the amount of animal units per acreage? What is the legal precedent for this?
The City is not reducing the amount of land that can be devoted to livestock. The current Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance does not permit livestock in residential districts other than the RE-1 District. Property located in other single-family residential districts may be used for purposes set out in the residential Table of Permitted and Conditional Uses.
- These proposed amendments of the zoning ordinance do not matter---if the process is run by complaints and not by abiding by the ordinance/law!! How will this process be integrated into consistent policies/laws/regulations and enforcement?
Two of the primary purposes of the amendment are i) to expand the rights of residentially improved A-1 properties to keep livestock, and ii) to provide for the consistent regulation of livestock based on land use impact. Enforcement is by complaint; however, this does not give anyone license to violate the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance.
- Why are other definitions related to agriculture, farming, and tourism not included?
Many definitions are set out in state law and there is no need to repeat them in the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance. Additionally, some of the definitions relating to "agritourism activities" are not within the scope of the amendment. When the City Council adopts an initiating resolution to amend the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance, any resulting ordinance must be within the scope of the approved initiating resolution.