Joint committee next step for approval of fowl in Berryville

Posted: January 15, 2014

The Winchester Star

A hen walks past a lawn ornament Monday afternoon in the backyard of Thomas and Robin Simon’s home in Middletown. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

BERRYVILLE — The Town Council Tuesday night took the next step in opening the backyards of Berryville to laying hens by sending a draft ordinance to a joint committee meeting for more work.

The Community Improvements and Police and Security committees will sit down at 6 p.m. on Jan. 28 to mull what extra safeguards might need to be added to the wording.

Mayor Wilson Kirby said if the committees can agree on wording for the ordinance, that when the council meets on Feb. 11 a public hearing could be scheduled for March.

Bryan Condrey, whose request in December that council allow laying hens began the discussion, asked for one change in the draft ordinance drawn by town staff — removal of the wording that forbids the selling of eggs or other chicken products.

He said hen owners may have a surplus of eggs and that selling a dozen to a neighbor could help offset feed costs.

Criminalizing such sales seems “overly prohibitive,” he said, and costly to enforce.

“They’re not going to rival Eggland’s Best from their backyard,” he said of home hen owners.

Town Manager Keith Dalton said he’d been asked about the risk to dogs that attack chickens.

Police Chief Neal White said state code allows animals chasing livestock or poultry to be immediately shot. However, a resident noted that the town has a leash law and dogs are not allowed to run free but must be under control off their own property.

And, said council member Mary Daniel, the town has rules banning the discharge of firearms within its limits.

But, she said, there might be issues about the disposal of dead animals.

Councilman Harry “Jay” Arnold Jr. said he was concerned about precedent. Would allowing hens open the way for milk goats and other livestock?

Dalton noted that there are a number of issues involved in the question. He said Arlington had appointed a 17-member task force to consider it and the panel returned a 72-page report.

Both Daniel and Councilman H. Allen Kitselman Jr. said they’d had more feedback from the community on this question than any other.

During the meeting, no voices were raised against the fowl. Daniel, however, said the chief reaction she’s heard from people in the community has been that they didn’t mind chickens but everyone has some concern. The phrase she heard was “OK, but...”

Daniel noted that all of the town committee meetings are open to the public.

In other business, Dalton said the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to replace the traffic lights at the intersection of Main and Church streets later this spring.

VDOT will meet with the town’s Streets and Utilities Committee at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 to discuss the project.

Council also set public hearings for Feb. 11 on a special-use permit request by Anderson Control to use a house on South Buckmarsh Street for office space and another for a text amendment to allow the second-floor space of Main Street businesses to be used for apartments by right.

Attending the meeting at the Joint Government Center were Mayor Wilson Kirby and council members Mary Daniel, David Tollett, Harry “Jay” Arnold Jr., H. Allen Kitselman Jr. and Douglas Shaffer.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com