Foreground, from left: Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank and Kenai City Clerk Shellie Saner watch as Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom wordsmiths an amendment to an ordinance during a council meeting on Wednesday at Kenai City Hall, March 1, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. Background from left: Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel, Deborah Sounart and Alex Douthit discuss the legislation, which allows more city residents to keep chickens on their property. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Foreground, from left: Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank and Kenai City Clerk Shellie Saner watch as Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom wordsmiths an amendment to an ordinance during a council meeting on Wednesday at Kenai City Hall, March 1, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. Background from left: Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel, Deborah Sounart and Alex Douthit discuss the legislation, which allows more city residents to keep chickens on their property. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai OKs chickens for more city residents

Council debate on the issue lasted for roughly four hours

More residents in the City of Kenai can now keep chicken hens on their property following a vote by Kenai City Council members Wednesday to expand the number of city lots on which livestock can be kept.

The ordinance approved by council members was first brought forth by council member Alex Douthit in December 2022. After city council members approved the legislation for introduction on Jan. 4, it went through a lengthy public process that included two work sessions by the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission and two public hearings by the city council.

Between the city council’s regular meeting packet and late addition items, 150 pages of public comment were submitted in response to the ordinance. Of those, about 25 comments were in support of more chickens in city limits, while seven were opposed. Some people submitted multiple public comments.

Council debate on Wednesday stretched for about four hours, including multiple breaks for amendment wordsmithing, clarifications from City Clerk Shellie Saner and input from City Attorney Scott Bloom.

Of key concern for council members while discussing the legislation was in what zones chickens should be allowed and what a resident’s minimum lot size should be in order to allow chickens. As introduced by Douthit, the legislation did not specify a minimum lot size.

During Wednesday’s meeting, council member Victoria Askin, who has previously said that she keeps chickens, proposed a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet, while Douthit favored setting the minimum lot size at 10,000 square feet. Council members narrowly voted to set the minimum lot size at 20,000 square feet.

Council members also clarified the city zones in which chickens may be kept.

Except in the city’s Urban Residential, Suburban Residential 1, Suburban Residential 2 and Townsite Historic districts, residents are already allowed to keep livestock on land parcels larger than 40,000 square feet.

Now, some residents whose lots are smaller than 40,000 square feet and larger than 20,000 square feet will be allowed to keep up to 12 chickens.

Chickens are still not allowed in Kenai’s Urban Residential, Suburban Residential 1, Suburban Residential 2 and Townsite Historic zones. Chickens will also not be allowed on lots smaller than 40,000 square feet in the city’s Airport Light Industrial zone.

In Kenai’s Rural Residential zone, up to 12 chickens may be kept on lots of any size, as long as an owner’s principal structure sits on that lot. The city previously did not limit the number of chickens residents could have in the Rural Residential Zone.

Council members also passed other guidelines affecting how chickens may be kept on city lots.

Hens must be kept in an enclosed shelter or be fully fenced in at all times. Chicken shelters, such as coops, must be located in someone’s backyard and must be made of “durable weather resistant materials.” Those shelters must be secured and kept in good repair and all chicken feed must be stored in a way that prevents access from non-domestic animals.

Per the ordinance, the new regulations take effect in 30 days.

Council members ultimately unanimously voted in favor of the legislation, with multiple people saying that they were glad an agreement was reached.

“Thank you for everybody struggling through the slog of paperwork with the chicken ordinance,” Douthit said during his closing comments Wednesday. “I think we came to some good middle ground there.”

Askin agreed.

“I’m happy that we passed the chicken ordinance and that we were able to debate and come to agreement,” she said.

The council’s full Wednesday meeting can be streamed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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