An urban agriculture ordinance that allows residents to raise backyard chickens and bees and grow community-size gardens in some neighborhoods of the city was approved unanimously Monday by the Sparks City Council.
Under the ordinance, urban agricultural activities, with restrictions, are permitted in all of the city’s residential areas except in planned developments, which cover master-planned communities such as Wingfield Springs and D’Andrea.
One council member estimated that chickens will be allowed in residential backyards in about a third of the city.
Audience members applauded the 5-0 decision, which followed a public hearing that mostly featured supporters of the ordinance.
Several council members expressed concern about enforcing the ordinance but in the end appeared willing to give it a chance.
Some council members said the vast majority of residents will follow the rules and shouldn’t be punished for the few who don’t.
Councilwoman Julia Ratti, who made the motion to approve the ordinance, said the risk is minimal.
“I think it’s time to move forward,” Ratti said. “We can monitor it for a year.”
The urban agriculture provisions, part of an extensive revision of the city’s code dealing with planning and zoning, were developed through the help of a consultant from Kansas City and the input from residents and other stakeholders.
The Sparks Planning Commission recommended that the council approve the agricultural section. The council, in a 3-0 vote in August, approved the extensive zoning and planning revisions but postponed action on the agricultural component.
Thanks to the ordinance, residents living outside of planned developments will be able to keep chickens in their backyards, subject to a set of restrictions. Among the restrictions: Roosters are prohibited, the number of hens that can be kept is based on the size of the property, the hens must be kept in a covered coop and they can’t have access to the front yard.
The ordinance, which defines chickens as an “accessory use” in neighborhoods, provides for a complaint process and inspections.
Bee hives also are allowed in backyards, again with certain restrictions. No more than two hives are allowed per parcel.
The ordinance covers more than bees and chickens. It also applies to larger community-type gardens maintained by groups or individuals to grow crops or other agricultural products for personal use, donations or off-site sales.
Personal gardens are not affected by the ordinance.