Tucson residents allowed to have backyard chickens and gardens

Published: Dec. 12, 2015 at 11:24 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2016 at 12:52 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's considered a win for some Tucson residents that have backyard chickens and gardens. In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Dec. 8, the city council approved an urban agriculture text amendment to the city's unified development code.

This allows residents to raise backyard chickens and other approved food-producing animals within city limits. This includes ducks, geese, and miniature goats. Pets aren't covered, and laws regarding larger livestock, like cattle and horses, won't be affected.

According to the new policy, the city will use "animal units" to calculate the number of animals per residence. The new rules set a limit of two "units" for every 1,000 square foot, depending on the size of a resident's lot. It also requires a backyard chicken coop to be kept at least 20 ft. from a neighbor's house as opposed to the previous 50 ft.

In a weekly newsletter sent out by Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham, the urban agriculture ordinance is the first of its kind in Arizona.

"In many cases, such activities were either not allowed or the code was unclear," wrote Cunningham.

There are also some restrictions for residents to keep an eye on. The new code still doesn't allow for roosters, and many backyards still won't accommodate animals under the new rules.

"The 20 ft. setback from neighboring properties is for a shelter building to provide for adequate cover and feeding of animals," said Cunningham. "That will still keep animals out of neighborhoods with small yards where they are inappropriate."

But like most changes to a community, they come with concerns. One concern brought up during Tuesday's council meeting was code enforcement. The city said the code will be enforced based on complaints, and there are already city rules in place that will cover nuisances.

It also seems like other cities are looking into urban farming as well. According to Cunningham's newsletter, the city has already been contacted by some cities in Maricopa County and said they'll be keeping an eye on how this code works.

"The rules will be sunsetted after two years," he said. "We can revisit them at that time."

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