New Zoning laws for the City of Utica adopted in 2021 that included the allowance of chickens and fowl being raised in residential backyards didn't survive the chopping block, according to Utica Common Council members.

Draft Code Green Zoning Update for the City of Utica Prepared by Elan.3 Consulting Courtesy of The City of Utica (cityofutica.com)
Draft Code Green Zoning Update for the City of Utica Prepared by Elan.3 Consulting Courtesy of The City of Utica (cityofutica.com)
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The new Zoning plan developed by Elan3 Consulting for the City of Utica was intended to make zoning laws more in sync with modern city life, and in particular, allowed for green initiatives including self-sustaining lifestyles that include vegetable gardening and the raising of a small amount of farm animals to produce food for self consumption.

"Unfortunately, the provision that would have allowed a small amount of chickens to be raised on residential properties was voted down," according to Utica Councilwoman Celeste Friend. Friend, who was for the specific zoning change, said the rejection was unfortunate, but that she would not reintroduce the provision going forward unless she had the support of other council members.

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Many residents went to social media recently with reasons why the zoning law preventing raising fowl including chickens, geese and doves, should remain in effect. South Utica's Nancy L. Ford compared it to the city's inability to control legalized fireworks. "While you give everyone an inch, there are those who will take a mile," said Ford. She cited four bullet points supporting to the rejection of the plan, including smaller backyards, smell and health hazards regarding chicken excrement.

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The new zoning ordinance allowing chicken farming would have restricted it to 800 to 1000 square feet per animal, depending on your zoning class. (The city was broken down into zoning classes based on residential or commercial saturation. The zoning also required chicken coops and fences would be 20 feet from neighboring residential units and 5 feet from property lines.

Chicken November 2021 Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino
Chicken November 2021 Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino
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The new zoning plan was initiated to "create and maintain conditions under which people and their environment can exist in productive and enjoyable harmony while fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations."

The zoning plan was created to "recognize the need for housing, industry and business" as part of the City's future growth. The new requirements were also designed with Utica's Master Plan in mind. While other parts of the new zoning laws approved in January of last year remained in place, the provision allowing fowl in the city was voted out in December.

Councilman Joe Betrus said that any property owners that have raised fowl or chickens on their property prior to zoning restrictions would remain grandfathered in and immune from the restrictions. Additionally, any residents who acted on the new zoning allowance of fowl after it was adopted in January of 2021, would have an entire year to remove the animals from their property.

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