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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | January 17, 2014 at 8:15 am | 1,809 views | No Comments

View of Washington, D.C. from the side of the GW Parkway at night

Doughnut Truck Comes to Arlington — A new food truck devoted to doughnuts has hit the streets of Arlington. The truck, from the Penn Quarter eatery Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, is so far only selling doughnuts and coffee. It plans to stop in Rosslyn, Clarendon and Ballston. [Washingtonian]

Fundraising for Hot Car Mom — A local couple is trying to raise $50,000 for the legal defense of Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez, the mother accused of accidentally leaving her 8-month-old son in a car for 6 hours on a hot day, leading to his death. The couple says they were “heartbroken” for Hernandez, who is facing a charge of felony child neglect. [Patch]

Flashback: Arlington’s Last Chicken Debate — It turns out this is not the first time that there has been a strong debate in Arlington about urban hen raising. Late in 1945, after the end of World War II, Arlington was preparing to reinstitute an urban chicken ban that had been dropped during the war. The renewed restrictions “drew public debate and strong views on both sides.” [Sun Gazette]

Republican Running for Moran’s Seat — Republican Micah Edmond says he’s planning to run for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). Edmond has previously worked in banking, defense policy and as a Marine Corps officer. [National Review]

Pyzyk Poached by Arlington County — ARLnow.com freelance reporter Katie Pyzyk has accepted a full-time position with Arlington County. Pyzyk, who joined us in 2011 and who holds the crown for our most-viewed story of all time, will be a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. We wish Katie the all best in her new position.

Delegate Wants to Nix Dog Death Penalty for Chicken Attacks

by Ethan Rothstein | January 9, 2014 at 11:45 am | 624 views | No Comments

Chicken (file photo)The Virginia law that allows dogs to be shot for attacking chickens could be changed thanks to legislation proposed in the General Assembly.

Del. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat representing Richmond, says she will introduce a bill that would change the law, intended for chicken farms, for urban chickens, according to Style Weekly. Richmond legalized keeping up to four backyard hens in residential areas last April.

“I think we can agree if we’re in a densely populated urban area that it’s not a good idea to have people killing each other’s pets,” McClellan told the Richmond population. She also said that in areas where “chickens are a luxury, not a livelihood, it isn’t clear that a hen’s right to life trumps that of a hungry dog’s.”

Virginia law section § 3.2-6552 allows for citizens to kill any dog caught in the act of killing or injuring poultry. After the fact, Virginia courts have the power to order animal control officers to kill any dog found to be a “confirmed poultry killer.” McClellan’s bill would allow localities to enact ordinances overruling that provision.

There’s a competing law that may also be introduced strengthening chicken protections, which would remove the cap on the amount of money a chicken owner can recoup if its chicken is killed by a dog. The cap is currently set at $10.

The Arlington County Board has been mulling whether to allow backyard hens in denser urban areas for the better part of a year. In November, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended against taking action to allow more hens in the county. A plurality of Arlington’s Urban Agriculture Task Force recommended hens be allowed in larger backyards, one of 27 recommendations the task force made in a presentation in June.

File photo

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | December 27, 2013 at 9:35 am | 904 views | No Comments

A man watches a child ride a bike on the first day of winter (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)

Va. Bill Would Stiffen Chicken Protections — A bill currently proposed in the Virginia General Assembly would remove a cap on the penalty for dog owners whose pets kill chickens and other fowl. If passed, the legislation could give new ammunition for opponents of urban hen raising in Arlington. Virginia law already allows for dogs found to be attacking chickens to be shot on sight. [Sun Gazette]

Party Tonight to Include ‘Drunk Santa’ — Fresh off a grueling evening of world-wide present delivering, Santa Claus is apparently ready to party. Wilson Tavern (2403 Wilson Blvd) in Courthouse is hosting a “Misfits Christmas Party” tonight. According to a poster for the event, it includes the opportunity to “get you picture taken with drunk Santa.” [Clarendon Nights]

Vihstadt Has a ‘Very Real Chance’ — Local political prognosticator Ben Tribbett, who runs the Not Larry Sabato blog, says independent Arlington County Board candidate John Vihstadt has a “very real chance” of ending Democrats’ total sweep of Arlington elected offices. “Arlington Democrats always have massive underperformance issues in special elections,” Tribbett writes. “There is a very real chance that in March, Arlington’s time as being controlled by all Democratic elected officials will come to an end.” Tribbett also notes that Vihstadt, despite running as an independent and attracting some Democratic endorsements, is “a large GOP donor.” [Not Larry Sabato]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

The Right Note: County Manager Eggs on Debate?

by Mark Kelly | November 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm | 444 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThis week, County Manager Barbara Donnellan raised a number of concerns about allowing backyard hens in Arlington. On her list: difficulty of enforcement, public health, sanitation, and even a Virginia law that could put local dogs in jeopardy from overzealous hen owners. In short, rumors that county staff were no fans of the hen proposal have finally been confirmed.

Both sides jumped into the fray after the County Board work session to claim their position was winning the day. If you have not been following, the groups have taken on the name Backyards Not Barnyards and the Arlington Egg Project.

What we know is that we will be waiting a bit longer for a final decision on whether chicken coops will ultimately be allowed in Arlington yards. Based on the slow pace this issue is making along the Arlington Way, it is more likely than not that the final decision will not come to a vote before Chris Zimmerman resigns in late January.

The current scoreboard indicates the remaining County Board Members are split. It seems as though Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey would prefer to table the issue and focus on other priorities, while Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada want to get it done. So, the next County Board member could hold the deciding vote next year. Soon-to-be Chairman Fisette will most certainly keep this issue alive once he assumes control over the gavel.

With Democrat candidates already out lining up support for the special election they should be prepared to tread lightly on this issue as it could be a deciding factor in a low turnout firehouse primary. Add hens to the Columbia Pike trolley as issues candidates will need to “finesse” as they work to build support for their campaigns.

More than an election issue, it represents a rare 3-2 split for a panel that usually agrees to agree. It is refreshing to see a difference of opinion on the Board instead of single party groupthink, but these instances are still too few and far between.

Chris Zimmerman’s departure will create a new dynamic on the Board, in more ways than just hens — or even the Columbia Pike trolley’s future. A new Board Member who has political independence from one-party rule, and pledges to create a new era of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility, would be a breath of fresh air for Arlington.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

County Manager Recommends Against Hen Raising

by ARLnow.com | November 13, 2013 at 5:45 am | 1,917 views | No Comments

County Manager Barbara Donnellan presents her FY 2014 budget on Feb. 20, 2013Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending that the County Board take no action on the hot-button issue of urban hen raising.

At a work session with the Board last night (Tuesday), Donnellan and county staff presented their work thus far on the recommendations of Arlington’s Urban Agriculture Task Force.

While the task force made a total of 27 recommendations on various urban agriculture issues, the issue of whether to allow residents of single family homes to keep egg-laying hens in their backyards has garnered the most public attention. Donnellan told the Board that there are too many “unanswered questions” about hen raising in Arlington County and enforcement of new hen-related ordinances could prove to be a “drain on county resources.”

She recommended that the current county code on poultry — which requires that the poultry owner keep the animals so far from neighboring property lines that only 15 properties qualify countywide — be maintained. Should the Board decide to move forward with a more permissive ordinance, Donnellan recommended moving slowly — spending up to a year on a public process to try to achieve community consensus.

In a presentation, county staff expressed concern over a number of issues requiring, in their words, further “eggsploration.” Those included:

  • How to dispose of dead or dying hens
  • What to do with abandoned hens
  • How to best enforce hen-related laws and how to find the funding for that enforcement
  • The potential of overstressing the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and its animal control officers
  • Health and pest concerns
  • Virginia laws authorizing hen owners to kill dogs that chase or kill their poultry

Donnellan said a pilot program for urban hens is not possible under the current zoning ordinance. She cautioned that pushing through the hen issue now would require additional county resources at a time when Arlington is facing a $10 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015.

In response to Donnellan’s recommendation, the two chicken-related advocacy organizations in Arlington weighed in with dueling statements. Backyards Not Barnyards, which opposes hen-raising in Arlington, wrote the following.

Obviously, we are hugely in agreement with the County Manager… We agree that there are higher priorities for this county than figuring out how make hens to “lay an egg” or two.  The benefits don’t come close to the setup and enforcement costs, environmental impacts, health issues and likely neighbor vs. neighbor conflicts.  Let’s hope the County Board has the same priorities.

The Arlington Egg Project, which has been promoting the idea of backyard hens for nearly 3 years, said it is confident that the Board will overrule Donnellan’s recommendation.

Thankfully, the County Manager works for the County Board, not the other way around. Chairman Tejada has been clear and persuasive in calling for new efforts on urban agriculture, including those related to restoring our freedom to keep small numbers of backyard hens. We are looking forward to moving ahead under the leadership of Chairman Tejada and his colleagues.

We know that writing clear and enforceable regulations on backyard hens is achievable because hundreds of urban communities have done so — including some that started and completed that process since the Urban Agriculture Task Force was commissioned.

Three County Board members — Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman — expressed support for allowing urban hen-raising during the work session. Libby Garvey and Mary Hynes said they would rather put the issue aside indefinitely and focus on other priorities.

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The Right Note: On the Radar

by Mark Kelly | October 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm | 457 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe county staff response to the Urban Agriculture Task Force’s recommendations will be formally presented at a County Board work session Nov. 12. The most high profile among the recommendations is the consideration of allowing Arlingtonians to keep backyard chickens. If accepted, individuals would be able to have as many as four hens so long as the coops are set back 20 feet from their property lines, and a majority of their adjacent neighbors agree.

The biggest question seems to surround enforcement. How will the county enforce the inspection requirements for new coops as well as ongoing policing to ensure chicken owners stay in compliance? What will they do about people who do not file plans but put coops in their backyards anyway? Will fees for coops and fines for failures to comply cover any need to hire new county code enforcement personnel? Assuming revenue generated by chickens will not cover any costs, how will new personnel be paid for?

The recommendations are a priority for 2013 Board Chairman Tejada, so look for him to try to push these along before his term ends Jan. 1.

Next month, the County Board will consider what to do with excess revenue in the closeout process. Based on recent history, they could have up to tens of millions of dollars to spend outside of the regular budget process. Remember that in a couple months when the County Manager and County Board tell us we have to pay more in property taxes or fees next year because we have a “budget shortfall.”

The Potomac Yard Harris Teeter re-opened after an 18 month closure caused by a sewage backup that was not of their own making. Harris Teeter has sued Arlington County for $1 million in damages, alleging negligence for the backup. Reports on the causes at the time would lead one to believe Harris Teeter may have a case. If so, hopefully the county will settle this quickly rather than burning up time and legal fees for any outside counsel. The Board, as you may remember, ran up well over $1 million in legal fees to sue everyone they could think of during the HOT lanes fight.

Residents across the South Arlington neighborhoods near the Pentagon were largely opposed to the PenPlace development approved by the County Board in September. Among residents’ concerns about the development’s impact on the neighborhoods were traffic, public safety, services, like grocery stores, and parks.  Less than a month later, the Board approved an updated Arlington Ridge Neighborhood Conservation plan which covers some of the area near the PenPlace development. The Arlington Ridge plan had not been revised in 40 years.

Kudos to local residents whose concerns about the Crystal City Sector Plan and PenPlace were largely ignored when the County Board approved the plans. After the Crystal City Plan went through over their objections three years ago, they made sure to tee up the new conservation plan to push the County Board to accept when their PenPlace objections met the same fate.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Death Sentence for Dogs that Kill Chickens Under Va. Law

by ARLnow.com | October 10, 2013 at 10:45 am | 1,442 views | No Comments

Chicken (file photo)It’s a part of Virginia law that mostly pertains to rural areas, crafted to protect farmers and their livestock. But it could also potentially apply to Arlington, should the county allow residents to raise egg-laying hens.

Virginia law section § 3.2-6552 allows for citizens to kill any dog caught in the act of killing or injuring poultry. After the fact, Virginia courts have the power to order animal control officers to kill any dog found to be a “confirmed poultry killer.”

The little-known law may be a deal-breaker for dog-loving Arlington residents, should the county follow a task force recommendation and require potential hen owners to first win the approval of adjacent property holders.

“That could really cause some problems between neighbors,” said Jim Pebley, of the group Backyards, Not Barnyards, which opposes urban chickens in Arlington. “This just adds another reason why relaxing restrictions on raising poultry in residential areas is not a very good idea.”

Asked about the law, supporters of backyard hens didn’t seem concerned, however.

“Thankfully, dogs, people and hens co-exist happily in Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, and hundreds of other urban communities across the country that embrace henkeeping,” said Ed Fendley, of the Arlington Egg Project. “We are confident that in Arlington, too, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Other states have similar laws on the books. Two weeks ago in the San Francisco area, two dogs were killed by the owner of chickens the dogs had just killed. The killing of the dogs would be legal under California law, unless the dogs “suffered unduly” and animal cruelty charges can be brought.

The Virginia law is as follows:

It shall be the duty of any animal control officer or other officer who may find a dog in the act of killing or injuring livestock or poultry to kill such dog forthwith whether such dog bears a tag or not. Any person finding a dog committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section shall have the right to kill such dog on sight as shall any owner of livestock or his agent finding a dog chasing livestock on land utilized by the livestock when the circumstances show that such chasing is harmful to the livestock. Any court shall have the power to order the animal control officer or other officer to kill any dog known to be a confirmed livestock or poultry killer, and any dog killing poultry for the third time shall be considered a confirmed poultry killer. The court, through its contempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian, or harborer of the dog to produce the dog.

Any animal control officer who has reason to believe that any dog is killing livestock or poultry shall be empowered to seize such dog solely for the purpose of examining such dog in order to determine whether it committed any of the depredations mentioned herein. Any animal control officer or other person who has reason to believe that any dog is killing livestock, or committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section, shall apply to a magistrate serving the locality wherein the dog may be, who shall issue a warrant requiring the owner or custodian, if known, to appear before a general district court at a time and place named therein, at which time evidence shall be heard. If it shall appear that the dog is a livestock killer, or has committed any of the depredations mentioned in this section, the district court shall order that the dog be: (i) killed immediately by the animal control officer or other officer designated by the court; or (ii) removed to another state that does not border on the Commonwealth and prohibited from returning to the Commonwealth. Any dog ordered removed from the Commonwealth that is later found in the Commonwealth shall be ordered by a court to be killed immediately.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | October 8, 2013 at 8:30 am | 2,286 views | No Comments

Sunset on Oct. 7, 2013 (photo courtesy @BrianWohlert)

Development Proposed to Replace Courthouse Wendy’s — Developer Carr Properties is planning to propose an office building to be built at 2038 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, replacing the Wendy’s. The building will be similar to Carr’s planned office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd, which was approved by the Arlington County Board in December. [Washington Post]

Questions Remain As Staff Works on Urban Ag Report — County Board Chairman Walter Tejada is pressing county staff to move faster on a report on urban agriculture. The report is expected to recommend a course of action on the controversial issue of urban hen raising, an issue for which many questions remain. [Sun Gazette]

Free Tropical Plants Today – Ferns, palms, ficus trees and banana plants will be given away for free this afternoon at the Crystal City farmers market. Used to decorate outdoor areas of Crystal City during the summer, the plants would otherwise be composted in advance of winter. [Crystal City BID]

Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. Photo courtesy @BrianWohlert.

Abandoned Chickens on the Rise In N. Va.

by Ethan Rothstein | July 24, 2013 at 8:30 am | 3,254 views | No Comments

Chicken (file photo)The rise of backyard chickens in Northern Virginia has sparked a heated policy debate in Arlington, but it has also led to an increase in abandoned chickens showing up at shelters.

In 2011, Prince William County approved a measure that allowed raising birds on some residential properties. Since then, the number of chickens that the Prince William County Animal Shelter has taken in has risen.

In 2011, the shelter — which also accepts chickens from Arlington, since the Animal Welfare League of Arlington does not house poultry — saw 23 chickens. After Prince William passed its new ordinance, the number of chickens at the PWCAS jumped to 33 in 2012 and 29 already in 2013.

According to Laurie Thompson, an administrator with the PWCAS, the first 16 chickens the shelter took in this year were strays, a number she noted was both unusual and likely attributable to abandoned chickens.

“If somebody knows how to handle a chicken and they keep their numbers down low and don’t have roosters that are going to crow, then it’s probably okay having one or two hens for eggs,” Thompson told ARLnow.com. “But sometimes, people can get excessive with these things, keep bringing them in, and then it becomes a health hazard with chicken feces. It’s not really good for an urban area to have all those feces to deal with, because those can bring in rats.”

Arlington residents are allowed to raise poultry in an enclosure 100 feet or more from property lines, but a debate has grown in the past year around reducing the limit. Last month a majority of the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, created in 2012, recommended reducing the enclosure limit to 20 feet from a property line, but allowing no more than four hens, no roosters and requiring permission from neighbors.

The recommendation is being considered by county staff, which will then make its own recommendation to the County Board. The Board is not expected to take action on the subject until the fall.

Animal Welfare League of Arlington spokeswoman Kerry McKeel said the organization participated in a discussion about backyard chickens with the task force, but hasn’t otherwise offered any opinions about the implications of additional urban hen raising.

“At this point a decision has not been reached on how the ordinance will be changed, so at this time AWLA does not have a position on the issue,” she said. In the past year, McKeel said the AWLA has picked up four roaming chickens and sent them either to Prince William or farm sanctuaries in rural Virginia or Maryland.

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Task Force: Allow Hens in Larger Yards

by ARLnow.com | June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm | 3,122 views | No Comments

Members of the Urban Agriculture Task ForceArlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force presented its recommendations to the Arlington County Board on Tuesday night. Chief among them: allow backyard hens for residential egg production, but only in larger yards and with prior approval of neighbors and county inspectors.

The 18-person task force has labored for more than a year to create the recommendations, contained in a 74-page report. Along the way, the task force conducted extensive public outreach online, at farmers markets and at community meetings.

In the end, on the hot-button issue of hen raising, a majority of the task force recommended a course of action unlikely to fully satisfy those on either side of the argument. Backyard hens, the task force said, should be allowed under the following conditions:

  • Maximum of 4 hens
  • No roosters
  • Set back at least 20 feet from property lines
  • Must file plans for coop and its placement
  • Majority of adjacent property holders (within 50 feet of the coop) must consent
  • Coop inspection required before occupancy

Task force chairman John Vihstadt — who acknowledged that “this is a very emotional issue stirring strong feelings on both sides” – described the recommendation as a reasonable compromise between those who wanted less hen regulation and those who wanted backyard hens to be prohibited. Currently, Arlington residents are technically allowed to raise poultry, but only if the enclosure is a full 100 feet from property lines. Reducing that to 20 feet is intended to allow more residents to raise hens while keeping disruption to neighbors to a minimum.

County Board member Jay Fisette listening to a report from the Urban Agriculture Task ForceIn a minority report, several task force members argued that 20 feet “would actually allow very few properties in Arlington to keep hens.” The minority report suggested a 7 foot setback, and also suggested allowing residents to keep miniature goats on their properties.

Backyards Not Barnyards, a group formed to opposed backyard hen raising in Arlington, expressed skepticism about the task force’s recommendations. The group questioned which county agency would be responsible for “chicken checking,” and asked whether those who live next to hen coops will be expected to become the “poultry police.”

“What happens if hen-owners don’t follow the guidelines?” the group said in a statement. “Do they get their chicken licenses revoked? Who would revoke them? What happens to the chickens? What’s the fine for too much accumulated chicken poop?”

The County Board is not expected to take action on the the task force’s recommendations until later this fall.

The task force made a number of other recommendations to the Board on the topic of urban agriculture. Those recommendations included:

  • Appoint a standing Commission on Urban Agriculture
  • Integrate urban agriculture into county planning documents
  • Create new community gardens and urban farms, utilizing rooftops and fallow land awaiting development if possible
  • Permitting federal SNAP benefits (food stamps) at all Arlington famers markets (currently only a couple accept SNAP)
  • Encourage the establishment of a “local food hub” to match up residential food producers with distributors and consumers
  • Encourage the creation of additional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs
  • Support additional healthy eating and urban agriculture education in schools and libraries
  • Repurpose the historic Reeves farmhouse as a center for urban agriculture education for Arlington school students
  • Establish a municipal composting system

Another recommendation was the creation of a year-round covered farmers market, like Eastern Market in D.C. and the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Such a market could also hold cooking and nutrition classes, a task force member said. While intrigued, some Board members seemed skeptical about finding the right location and the funding for such a market.

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New Group Forms to Oppose Backyard Hens in Arlington

by ARLnow.com | May 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm | 3,331 views | No Comments

Illustration from the Backyards, Not Barnyards websiteA new group has been formed to oppose backyard hens in Arlington.

Backyards, Not Barnyards,” as the group is called, is intended to be the answer to the Arlington Egg Project, which is strongly advocating for a change in zoning rules that would allow Arlington residents to raise egg-laying hens in their backyards.

Arlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, established in 2012, is expected to make a set of recommendations to the County Board on Tuesday, June 11, including whether or not to allow backyard hen raising. Advocates for the change say that backyard hens are “a critical part of sustainable, small-scale home agriculture,” producing “eggs that are both superior in taste and nutrition” and “excellent fertilizer for your home garden and lawn.”

Jim Pebley, a former president of the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association, helped to form Backyards, Not Barnyards with Darnell Carpenter, a former president of the Langston Brown Civic Association. Pebley says both he and Carpenter had unpleasant prior experiences with backyard chickens. They’re now hoping to attract “some grassroots opposition to this silliness.”

Backyard egg production, according the group, negatively impacts neighbors. Hens produce “excess animal waste runoff,” attract pests like insects and rats, and actually require more energy and resources than simply buying organic, sustainably-produced eggs at a local farmers market. Plus, they say, backyard hens are smelly and noisy.

The Arlington Egg Project has countered those points on its website, saying that hens are hygienic and won’t disturb neighbors.

Backyards, Not Barnyards also raises questions about regulation. If the zoning change only allows smaller-scale egg production, “Who would be in charge of counting [the chickens]?” the group asks.

Pebley has previously failed to get the Arlington County Civic Federation to adopt a resolution opposing backyard chickens, though he says he’s still trying to get the resolution through. With the new anti-chicken group, he’s hoping to gather online petition signatures to help sway the Arlington County Board before it considers any chicken-related zoning changes.

Backyards, Not Barnyards will be holding an organizational meeting tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. at the Langston Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street). Snacks — including deviled eggs — will be served.

Chicken Resolution Flies the Coop

by Katie Pyzyk | May 2, 2012 at 10:08 am | 2,965 views | 227 Comments

Last night, the Arlington County Civic Federation debated a proposed resolution regarding raising backyard chickens, but it didn’t get very far.

Jim Pebley, a member from the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association, had proposed the resolution, which opposes changing the county ordinance in order to allow residents to raise chickens.

Currently, livestock or poultry must be kept at least 100 feet away from a property owner’s street and lot lines, which is a difficult feat considering the size of lots in Arlington. A group called the Arlington Egg Project has proposed eliminating that restriction so that residents can raise egg-laying hens in their backyards. The county’s recently-formed Urban Agriculture Task Force is tackling the issue and is expected to make recommendations to the County Board by early next year.

Pebley gave a presentation explaining why it would be detrimental to the community to allow backyard chickens. In addition to irking neighbors with noise, Pebley contends chickens in backyards would attract rodents, pose a health risk and pollute groundwater that drains to the Chesapeake. He said the chickens and their waste also produce odors, which would bother neighbors.

“The smell is unavoidable,” said Pebley. “This just really borders on nonsense.”

He also said it would be difficult for the county to enforce regulations for raising chickens, due to the animals being hidden in backyards. That, he believes, would push neighbors to report each other to authorities.

“You aren’t going to have any more staff to enforce this. Neighbors are going to have to be the ones who enforce it,” Pebley said. “We’re going to have to turn the neighbors into police.”

Ed Fendley, co-founder of the Arlington Egg Project, gave a presentation in favor of backyard chickens. He said the group is interested in allowing a limited number of hens, but not roosters. He explained that with a limited number of hens, waste problems and noise would be minimal.

Fendley doesn’t believe the proper avenues have been followed to get information about urban agriculture out to the public. He asked the Civic Federation members to keep an open mind and to let the facts get out as part of the proper process.

“The Arlington Egg Project wants to foster a community conversation about backyard hens,” said Fendley. “All we’re asking you to do tonight is reserve judgment, we’re not asking you to join us.”

Fendley said the group is gaining support and more than 1,000 people have signed a petition requesting that Arlington allow backyard hens.

In addition to disagreeing with the way the backyard hen issue is being addressed, Fendley contends the Civic Federation’s resolution is unbalanced and biased as currently written.

“Let’s believe in Arlington, and let’s let the process work,” Fendley said. “If you believe in that process and if you believe in facts, then I ask that you join me in voting against this premature resolution.”

As it turns out, there wouldn’t be a vote on approving the resolution due to member concerns.

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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | April 17, 2012 at 8:37 am | 1,926 views | 66 Comments

Moran Marks Anniversary of Va. Tech Massacre — Rep. Jim Moran (D) marked the fifth anniversary of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday by calling on Congress to improve gun control laws. “When there are nearly enough guns in the U.S. for every man, woman and child, firearms will find their way into the wrong hands,” Moran said. “Criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill have no business owning deadly weapons.” A student shot and killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007.

Concern About Chicken Doo-Doo — Some residents are concerned that, if enacted, a proposal to allow small-scale backyard hen raising in Arlington would result in extra water pollution. A George Mason University professor says chicken waste from backyard hens in Arlington would ultimately make it into the already environmentally-sensitive Chesapeake Bay. [WAMU]

‘God of Carnage’ Opens at Signature Theatre — The Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage is now showing at Signature Theatre in Shirlington. [Playbill]

Hearing About School Board Appointment — A public hearing will be held tonight to discuss the appointment of an interim School Board member to replace now-County Board member Libby Garvey. Sixteen residents have declared themselves interested in the position. [Sun Gazette]

Man Dies After Heart Attack at Pentagon StationAdded at 9:15 a.m. — A 51-year-old Alexandria man died yesterday afternoon after suffering a heart attack at the Pentagon Metro station. Passengers attempted to revive the man, a witness told ARLnow.com, but he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. [Washington Post]

Arlington Egg Project Hosting Pro-Chicken Events

by Katie Pyzyk | January 19, 2012 at 10:45 am | 2,139 views | 41 Comments

Proponents of legalizing backyard chicken keeping in Arlington are hosting some events to advance their case.

A group called The Arlington Egg Project is holding its monthly meeting tonight at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford St.) at 7:00 p.m. The group’s goal is to get the county to change its ordinances so residents may keep a limited number of hens in their backyards.

Next month, the group is holding an “I Love Hens” evening of film and entertainment at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). The event will feature family friendly stand up comedy, a showing of the documentary “Mad City Chickens: The Return of the Urban Backyard Chicken!” and a conversation about urban agriculture with County Board Member Jay Fisette. Tickets for the February 16 event are $5.

The Arlington Egg Project cites numerous reasons for wanting backyard chickens, including reducing household food costs and increasing family nutrition. As part of its urban agriculture initiative, the County Board decided to create a task force this year that will look into a number of issues, including backyard hen raising.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | January 12, 2012 at 6:00 am | 7,553 views | 65 Comments

Backyard Chicken Debate Rages On — Egg-laying hens aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, according to an Arlington resident whose neighbor had an illegal chicken coop. “I can tell you that I thought we had excessive flies, we had rodents; the chickens do make noise and there is a smell,” Darryl Hobbs told WUSA9 at a community discussion about backyard chicken raising last night. Chicken supporters dispute claims that their coops are unsanitary, and say that egg-laying hens produce a steady stream of healthy, tasty and sustainable food. [WUSA 9]

Shoplifting Suspect Flees Down Metro Tracks — Metro trains were temporarily shut down near the Pentagon City station Tuesday night after a shoplifting suspect jumped on the tracks in an attempt to get away. The man, who’s accused of shoplifting from the Nordstom’s in Pentagon City, was eventually caught by Metro Transit Police. [NBC Washington]

Hope Wants Insurance Exchange — Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D) is one of the Democratic lawmakers hoping to pass a law to create a state-run health insurance exchange during the new General Assembly session in Richmond. All states are to have an insurance exchange in place by the end of 2013 under the Obama health care plan. “It will allow small businesses and individuals the opportunity to leverage similar to or even greater resources than that of large employers, using that clout to drive better pricing, choices and quality,” Hope said. [Roanoke Times]

Yoga, Pilates, Spinning in ClarendonMind the Mat, a new yoga and Pilates studio, opened in Clarendon this week. The studio, at 3300B Fairfax Drive, is offering free classes this week. Meanwhile Revolve, an indoor cycling studio that opened at 1025 N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon late last year, is holding its official grand opening celebration tonight from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Correction to Item Yesterday — A Morning Notes item yesterday erroneously stated that County Board member Walter Tejada was seeking the creation of a proposed Office of Latino Affairs in Arlington. In fact it’s BU-GATA, a tenants-rights organization, that is proposing the office’s creation. Tejada told ARLnow.com that he supports improving services for Latino residents, but doesn’t think the creation of a separate county department is necessarily the best way to go about it. “I don’t think it’s the thing to do,” he said. ARLnow.com regrets the error.

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

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