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Chickens

Chickens roost at Dare 2 Dream farms west of Lompoc. An initiative to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to allow single-family households meeting a certain criteria to have up to six hens each failed Tuesday.

An initiative to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to allow single-family households meeting a certain criteria to have up to six hens each failed Tuesday.

Instead, Lompoc’s City Council opted to keep the ordinance as is, likely delaying the initiative by at least two years, when a consultant is expected to present a complete zoning update to the council for implementation.

The largest concerns for the three dissenters were perceived negative impacts on property values, along with a concern that the city did not have the means to enforce the initiative.

Among those dissenters was City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, who spoke as a concerned citizen.

“I believe an action like this has an adverse impact on property values and my hope in living in this community is to help enhance property values,” Wiemiller said.

Mayor Bob Lingl agreed with Wiemiller, adding that if he was looking at a new home and he saw chickens in a neighbor's yard, he would be concerned about odors, rats or other potential problems.

“We should all be concerned with property values,” Lingl said.

But some disagreed, including Lompoc resident Nicholas Gonzales, mortgage lender with HighTech Lending Inc., and board member on the Santa Barbra Rental Property Association.

“I’m in the finance business and so I see appraisals all the time and I can tell you that I have never seen a negative adjustment on a property value because there is a chicken coop,” Gonzales said. “It just doesn’t lower the values of properties.”

There also was a concern that the city would not be able to enforce the initiative, since code enforcement efforts are already strained, city staff said.

“Why introduce another potential problem when we already have code enforcement issues?” Lingl asked.

Code enforcement issues were fresh on the council members' minds after Wiemiller decided to focus his city manager report on the city’s top 10 code enforcement issues in an item preceding the chicken vote.

“It’s not like we’re talking about ostriches,” Councilman James Mosby said. “We’re talking about chickens. Chickens!”

Mosby went on to criticize the council for “kicking the chicken down the road,” and not approving the issue right away.

“We have enough rules and regulations on the cage and how far it’s away from the window or a fence,” he said. “What are we waiting for?”

Gonzales also addressed code enforcement saying that the city could pay for efforts with the $74,341 it allocated for that purpose in its annual Community Development Block Grant allocation.

But the majority of the council disagreed with the plan, as Councilmen DeWayne Holmdahl and Victor Vega joined the mayor by voting against the initiative.

Chickens are currently allowed in Buellton, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Solvang, according to a staff report. The restrictions in each city vary. 

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Kenny Lindberg covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter.

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