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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Salem Lays an Egg on Keeping Hens

So we were talking about keeping chickens as part of a scheme for implementing the "Food Not Lawns" ideal (Victory Gardening for The New Reality). Someone thought you could keep hens but not roosters, someone else thought you couldn't keep either. It all led to an inquiry to the powers that be, who replied:
From: "Brady Rogers"

My name is Brady Rogers. I am the Compliance Services Administrator for the City of Salem. The brief answer to your question is no chickens are allowed to be kept within Salem City Limits, unless your residence is in an "RA" zone (Residential Agriculture).

From your e-mail it appears you have been reading the Salem Revised Code online. If you consult SRC Chapter 145 and look for the heading "Permitted Uses," you will find a list of land use activities that are legal, and need no special permissions or permits. SRC 145.020(3) allows for the raising of chickens in the RA zone. There are no other zones in Salem that allow for raising chickens at all. If you check the other Residential Zone chapters, you will find that no where else is the raising of foul permitted. [Oh, fowl bawl I say, fowl bawl! We might want to raise a metaphorical stink about this short-sighted policy, but not to raise anything foul.]

It is most probable that your home is not in the RA zone, as not much of this land is left. I could only tell you for certain what zone you are in if I had your exact address. If you would like, you can e-mail me your address and I can give you a 100% answer.

Thanks,
Brady

Brady Rogers
Compliance Services Division
(503) 588-6421 x7408
To which our intrepid correspondent replied:
Hi Brady. My immediate response, or course, is to go looking for the loopholes. I don't want to "raise" chickens. I just want to have a couple of hens as part of my organic, integrated pest management system. They would be bug-eating pets rather than livestock.

I, too, suspect I am not in an RA zone . . . .

Thanks for the SRC citation. I will not be surprised to see future discussions between citizens and City Council on this and other codes that restrict raising food (in my case, a few eggs produced by my pest manager pets) on our little piece of the city. As our gas supply disappears and our nation can no longer afford to import cheap food from around the world, we are all going to be looking for ways to feed our families. [emphasis added]

Thanks again for the quick response.
To which our power-that-be responded:
Based on the address you provided, officially your property is zoned RS and subject to the permitted uses listed in SRC Chapter 146. I'm afraid that does not include raising or keeping chickens for any purpose. This issue of chickens as pets has come up several times in recent years, and each time courts have ruled in the city's favor.

As it turns out, the Salem Zone Code is presently entering a re-write process that will take the next couple of years. It is possible that chickens may be addressed for such a limited use. You have plenty of time to submit your comments and recommendations to city staff. The Planning Division will be working on the re- write.

Thank you for your understanding, and feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.
Thanks,
Brady

Brady Rogers
Compliance Services Division
(503) 588-6421 x7408

Of course, calling chickens kept as part of a permaculture scheme "pets" is inaccurate and misleading. Chickens consume pests, condition soil, and produce rich fertilizer. In addition, their diets, which include lots of table scraps, helps reduce waste streams headed for landfills. In other words, they promote soil fertility, reduce exposure to pests, and--not least of all--produce nutritious eggs in abundance, which will be an important factor for many of us.

It's interesting that Salem won't allow laying hens but already permits a for-profit corporation to operate a helicopter school within the city, a city that is also serenaded nightly by the lonesome wail (or pierced by the sleep-shattering shriek, depending on your proximity to them) of nightly freight trains. Could the city's refusal to permit laying hens even pass the rational basis test? (Or is it true what they say about Salem --- one rule for corporations, another one for mere mortals?)

Update:
The person from planning who is gathering citizen inquiries into the re-write process is Bryce Bishop (503) 588-6173. The process hasn't started yet, but I believe he is gathering the contact information from people who wish to be notified of public meetings and hearings. There will be opportunities to raise issues and speak.
Thanks,
Brady

Some LOVEable events in Salem

Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, September 26
Peach of a Century - Sunday, September 28
Grant Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 2
The Willamette Valley Green & Solar Home Tour - Saturday, October 4
Walk + Bike to School Day, Wednesday, October 8
Highland Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 9
Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, October 31

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Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, September 26
We'll be at 12th & Chemeketa on the bike/ped promenade just east of the train tracks between 7 and 9am. For the latest visit the Breakfast Blog! -

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Peach of a Century - Sunday, September 28

The final Salem Bicycle Club ride of the season! And the weather report looks terrific! The full and metric century routes offer flat to rolling terrain with some moderate hills. The routes follow low- volume roads past the farm fields of the Willamette Valley, through forested foothills and the communities east of Salem, like Jefferson, Stayton, Sublimity, and Silverton. For more information on the ride and on day-of-ride registration.

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Grant Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 2
The Grant Neighborhood Association will meet at 6:15pm, Grant Community School, 625 Market St NE. The City will be presenting information on the proposed Winter/Myrtle/Cherry Bike Boulevard, which will help make a safer route for kids to the Kroc Center. If you live & bicycle in the Grant Neighborhood, please attend to show your support! For more information

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The Willamette Valley Green & Solar Home Tour - Saturday, October 4
This is a self-guided tour of several green and solar homes in the Salem & Silverton areas, and a chance to meet homeowners, builders, contractors and architects who were involved in these projects. It's $10 per car - but the secret sauce is that bicyclists are FREE!
Registration is required. If you go by bike, hit me with a note, and we'll organize a bike caravan! For more information

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Walk + Bike to School Day, Wednesday, October 8
Parents and kids statewide are encouraged to join millions around the world who are improving their health, their community and having a ton of fun by walking or biking to School. For more information

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Highland Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 9

At 7:00pm at North Neighbors Resource Center, 945 Columbia Street N.E., the Highland Neighborhood Association will meet.

The City will be presenting information on the proposed Winter/Myrtle/Cherry Bike Boulevard, which will help make a safer route for kids to the Kroc Center. If you live & bicycle in the Highland Neighborhood, please attend to show your support! For more information.

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Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, October 31

Costume yourself, your bike, or both! We'll be at the North Mall Office Building on Winter Street. We'll post some of the best looks on the breakfast blog - with luck maybe even have a prize! For the latest visit the Breakfast Blog