PHOENIX — Calling it an issue of “economic freedom,” an Arizona House panel voted Tuesday to force cities to allow residents to have poultry.
One foe said the move means the state will “shove it down the throats” of nearby residents who don’t want chickens in the neighborhood.
SB 1151 would overrule existing or future city ordinances that prohibit poultry outright or impose most other restrictions on single-family lots.
For instance, cities no longer could regulate how large a lot is necessary to raise not only chickens but also geese and turkeys. Cities also would not be able to tell someone how far a coop must be kept from a neighbor’s property.
That would leave cities with only an ability to set a cap on the number of fowl and a ban on roosters and other males.
One opponent, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who said he raised chickens on a 10-acre farm when he lived in New Jersey, said there will be issues of noise and odor.
“This is not just about the right of people to have hens,” he said. “This is about the right of their neighbors to enjoy the suburban or urban lifestyle which they’ve chosen. This is not ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ ”
Another, Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who is a former city councilman, said there’s no reason for legislators to impose their will over what is decided locally by each community.
He said some public safety issues should be decided at a state level. For example, he cited laws that prohibit bars within a certain distance of public schools.
“Something like this, I think it’s wrong to shove it down their throats and say, ‘You cannot do this,’ ” he said.
Many Arizona cities have restrictions of some form.
In general, they keep fowl sufficiently far from any fence line to keep them from becoming a nuisance to neighbors. That sometimes means residents of smaller lots do not get to have birds at all.
Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, sponsor of the legislation, said that’s a shame.
He said there are people with allergies who cannot use most store-bought eggs because of what commercially raised chickens are fed. Farnsworth also said his legislation would benefit poor people, especially those who may not want to accept food stamps.
Farnsworth, who was raised on a farm, said he had the “privilege” of going out to the henhouse when his mother needed eggs to bake a cake. Sometimes there were none.
“So I would wait until I heard the friendly cackle of the eggs and stick my hand under the hen,” he said. “And there was that nice warm egg.”
Rep. Demion Clinco, D-Tucson, said the legislation supports “a new model of urban farming and urban sustainability.”
Fellow supporter Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said the legislation “is about a lot more than chickens.”
“The United States has now fallen out of the Top 10 in the world for economic freedom,” he said. “And one of the biggest reasons is for the loss of property rights.”
But Borrelli said none of that provides a reason to overrule decisions made by locally elected council members.
“Every community is unique,” he said. “They know their area better than we do here.”