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Overland Park set to permanently allow people to keep chickens in their backyards

A backyard chicken hangs out in a portable coop in Silver Spring, Md., a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C. Backyard birds have become popular in urban and suburban areas, but a new CDC report documents a record high number of salmonella infections linked to these domestic flocks.
Charles Dharapak

After the success of a two-year pilot program, Overland Park residents will be now allowed to keep backyard chickens on lots greater than .20 acres. Only hens are eligible — no roosters.

Overland Park plans to permanently allow backyard chickens on smaller lots by making its backyard chicken pilot program into city code.

Last week, the Overland Park City Council Public Safety Committee voted 6-0 to recommend the city adopt a new ordinance enshrining backyard chickens in Overland Park in city code.

In early 2022, the city approved a temporary backyard chicken pilot program, following in the footsteps of other Johnson County cities.

The proposed ordinance, which would codify it in a new chapter called “Keeping of Chickens,” does have some small changes from the short-term backyard chicken pilot.

The two-year pilot allowed property owners to obtain permits for backyard chickens on lots at least a quarter-acre in size.

Before the pilot program, Overland Park allowed backyard chickens by right on large lots that were three acres or larger.

On smaller lots, residents could keep chickens but only through an arduous and lengthy permitting process that required earning approval from both the Overland Park Planning Commission and the city council.

Under the pilot, the city clerk and animal control office managed permitting and enforcement, respectively.

In the proposed ordinance, residents will be allowed to keep backyard chickens on lots greater than .20 acres, a reduction from the limits imposed by the pilot program.

Only hens are eligible — no roosters — and the number of chickens allowed is based on lot size.

The city clerk and animal control will still manage the permitting and enforcement processes for backyard chickens. The city manager’s office will set the fee structure.

Some homeowners’ associations prohibit chickens in their neighborhoods, and HOA rules will supersede city rules.

Property owners of county-zoned lots that have been annexed by Overland Park must follow Johnson County’s backyard chicken rules that the city grandfathered in at the time of annexation.

Those rules tend to be more restrictive and complex than the city’s, but Overland Park plans to fix that.

Even with Overland Park’s plans to permanently allow backyard chickens on smaller lots, residents who live on these annexed lots must continue following the county’s rules, said Stephen Horner, senior assistant city attorney. The county zoning rules are grandfathered in until there’s a city zoning change, sometimes years later.

During the discussion last week, councilmembers on the Public Safety Committee seemed amenable to pursuing changes to those rules, making it easier to have chickens on residential property in the future.

Councilmember Melissa Cheatham said it “defies common sense” to have more restrictive backyard chicken rules for county-zoned residential lots that tend to be in rural areas anyway.

The new backyard chicken ordinance will require city council approval before it becomes official.

Additionally, more discussion about how to allow backyard chickens on larger residential lots still under county zoning designations is likely to come in the future.

That conversation will be referred to the planning commission, which will need to have a public hearing on a possible amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance.

The timeline on those changes is unclear.

This story was originally published by the Shawnee Mission Post.

Kaylie McLaughlin covers Shawnee, Lenexa and USD 232 for the Shawnee Mission Post.
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