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Spotsylvania planners OK backyard chickens

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More Spotsylvania County residents could have backyard chickens under a proposal that received preliminary approval Wednesday.

The Spotsylvania Planning Commission voted 5–0 to recommend legalizing pet chickens countywide. Travis Bullock, who was appointed to the Planning Commission in January, abstained and member Gary Bullis was absent.

The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the proposal, which allows from two to six backyard chickens per home.

“I think the public was very much in favor of this,” Commissioner John Gustafson said.

The vote comes about a year after supervisors approved backyard chickens in just four of the county’s seven voting districts. The Spotsylvania Planning Department is recommending that the hens be permitted countywide in light of an advisory opinion last year by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli wrote that the county overstepped its bounds by allowing backyard chickens in some voting districts while prohibiting them in others.

The chickens are currently banned in the Battlefield, Berkeley, and Lee Hill districts. The supervisors who represented those districts when the ordinance was first passed opposed backyard hens.

Planning commissioner Mary Lee Carter, who represents the populous Lee Hill District, had expressed concern last month about allowing chickens on small lots. But she said Wednesday that she was satisfied with the county’s requirement that chicken coops be at least 10 feet from property lines and 35 feet from next-door homes.

“We can’t please everyone, and we’ll never please everyone,” Carter said. “But I do believe that this commission certainly tries to work together to allow all citizens to be pleased, even though we can’t please everyone.”

Many homeowners associations already restrict chickens, and local ordinances do not override those rules. At least one Spotsylvania resident, however, did convince her HOA to make an exception last year.

Spotsylvania has issued eight permits for backyard chickens since the initial ordinance was approved in February 2013. The Zoning Office hasn’t received any complaints about legal chicken owners. “It’s been a solid ordinance thus far,” said county planner Jacob Pastwik. “We haven’t really had any issues with it.”

The county Zoning Department has received a few reports of people keeping chickens without the required permit. It has also fielded three complaints about roosters, which are allowed only on agricultural lots of at least 5 acres.

In other business, the Planning Commission recommended approval of a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store at the intersection of Smith Station and Gordon roads.

The developer, JR Lex LLC, has agreed to donate a total of 20 acres at the site for a church and a dog park. Any church would have to apply for a special-use permit, which requires approval from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402