Backyard chicken permits in Bethlehem head for vote amid law enforcement concerns over bird flu

Bethlehem City Council is back on track for a vote allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

Council in committee Tuesday night voted 5-1 to seek a full council vote on rules to create a pilot scheme with 40 permits to keep backyard poultry.

On July 19, Council introduced the proposal, then delayed the approval vote to learn more about concerns expressed by Mayor J. William Reynolds’ city administration and police. A new vote will take place once the proposed order is announced, council attorney Brian Panella said.

Bethlehem Health Director Kristen Wenrich and Deputy Police Chief Scott Meixell reiterated at Tuesday night’s meeting that they continue to have concerns about how permits will be approved, enforcement of rules that already strain city staff and the introduction of pet birds at a time when a highly contagious strain of bird flu is circulating among wild birds and domestic fowl in the United States.

“I think when we look at this ordinance, we’re introducing something where the risks far outweigh the minimal benefits that we’ll see from backyard chickens,” Wenrich said at a joint meeting of public safety and law enforcement committees. community and economic development of the council. .

Public Safety Chairwoman Councilwoman Rachel Leon cast the only vote against forwarding the proposal to the full council. Council President Michael Colón was absent.

Councilor Paige Van Wirt said she came up with the proposal in response to residents who had contacted her about a desire to raise their own eggs for food and keep chickens as part of maintenance of a garden and as pets. She researched how other cities inside and outside of Pennsylvania have adopted similar programs. After a year, Van Wirt said she would review the pilot program and speak with the animal control officer about complaints and other issues and look to strengthen the rules or repeal the ordinance if it doesn’t work. she said.

“These settings have had great success in other cities, even without the 40-co-op pilot program, so I think it’s a very reasonable way to try this for our community and see how it works out,” said said Van Wirt.

For a proposed fee of $25, residents could apply for one of 40 permits to keep up to six hens inside a chicken coop in the backyard of a single-family home or side-by-side home. at least 20 feet from habitable structures, 25 feet from any street and at least 5 feet from any property line.

No slaughter of chickens would be allowed. Additional regulations include ensuring chickens always have access to clean feed and water while prohibiting harmful conditions such as foul odors, flies, vermin and excessive noise. Violations could result in fines or confiscation of the chickens.

Tuesday night’s meeting was streamed live and available on YouTube.

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