Montgomery County Council Aims to Revise Chicken Coop Regulations

It didn’t take long for the newly elected county council members to implement their progressive agenda. First on the list is an overhaul of regulatory requirements for Accessory Dwelling Coops, or ADCs. The demand for ADCs has increased dramatically, as more and more homeowners prefer to farm their own fresh eggs, instead of spending countless hours on the internet worrying over which brand of organic eggs is the most ethical to purchase.

But not everyone is finding it easy to build an ADC on their property. In order to start construction, residents must apply for a building permit, which requires not only architectural services, but also structural engineering, zoning analysis, environmental impact studies, fire safety, storm water management, and sometimes historic approvals. Also, many ADC applications are appealed by neighbors causing more time and money that homeowners spend defending themselves.

“It’s no surpise why we haven’t kept up with the pace. The chicken population is growing and we simply dont have enough housing for them,” warned Hans Riemer, at-large council member. “We need less burdensome regulations which would allow homeowners to build more ADCs.”

First term council member Evan Glass concurs. “What I worry about is what happens when we don’t provide enough housing for our county’s chickens. We don’t want them ending up on the street, or worse, inside of a KFC.”

While many people agree that the growing chicken population problem needs a solution, some residents oppose the changes to the current ADC regulations. For Barbara Amherst, homeowners shouldn’t be allowed to house chickens on their property at all. “I moved to Chevy Chase so I could live in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Now we’re going to have all these noisy, disgusting animals running around. I paid good money so I dont have to live next to all of that.”

“If we start allowing chickens, what next?” pondered Sam Bevins. “Next thing you know people are going to be building dairy farms and zoos in their backyard. Pretty soon, developers will be tearing down our homes to build farms!”

The Planning commission has laid out their proposed changes which aim to simplify things a bit. Single family lots may have only one ADC no larger than the square root of 46% of the remaining impermeable surface after taking into account the roof height divided by the average grade of the eastern most property line. The number of chickens allowed is the greater of the amount of trees on one’s property multiplied by the number of stories above grade, divided by the number of pre-existing ADCs in a 300 foot radius, OR the average roof height multiplied by the side yard setback divided by the square root of the fence height in inches.

“We tried to balance the need for these units with the need expressed by others for additional restrictions to block them completely,” explained a senior level planner. “We think we nailed it.”

The county plans to vote on this regulation change in April, but are allowing for public comments next week at the County Council hearing.

In the meantime, the county continues to try and solve the chicken population housing crisis in other ways. Small restaurants are also aware of the problems and are willing to change commercial zoning laws. For example, Sardi’s in Takoma Park immediately offered to supply short term housing.