Chickens, goats and ducks may soon be allowed in smaller backyard gardens in residential areas in Spokane Valley.
Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard, who’s an experienced urban farmer and vegetable grower, donned his favorite straw hat at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting while he listened to a staff presentation on urban farming regulations in the Valley.
Planner Micki Harnois said there has been an interest in animal husbandry and urban farming since incorporation, but it’s mentioned in very few places in Spokane Valley’s code.
The City Council had asked for an update on urban farming rules and regulations, and expressed an interest in streamlining rules and making it easier for residents to have a few smaller animals.
Currently, Spokane Valley residents may grow fruits and vegetables and sell them in their front yards without obtaining a license or permit.
The raising and keeping of animals is allowed in residential zones, Harnois said, as is bee keeping. Lots on which an animal is kept must be at least 40,000 square feet, though there are exceptions.
Three large animals (cows or horses) or six medium animals (goats) are allowed per acre, and one small animal, like a rabbit, is permitted per 3,000 square feet of lot. Pigs are not permitted, and coops, hutches and other animal buildings must be set back 75 feet from dwellings.
Councilman Sam Wood pointed out that the setback requirement makes it impossible to have an animal on a 5,000-square-foot lot.
Senior Planner Lori Barlow confirmed the point and reminded Wood that the first requirement for the posession of any animal is a 40,000-square-foot lot.
“So you have to have 40,000 square feet to have a rabbit?” Wood asked.
Barlow said yes, but chickens and bees can be kept on smaller lots.
Councilman Caleb Collier wanted to know why ducks are not regulated the same way as chickens. Barlow said that no one expressed any interest in ducks during the recent review of the rule.
Harnois said chickens are regulated separately and are allowed in all Spokane Valley residential zones. The limit is one chicken per 2,000-square-foot lot up to a maximum of 25 birds, and roosters are not allowed.
In the city of Spokane, one chicken is allowed per 1,000-square-foot lot and one small livestock per 2,500-square-foot lot. Spokane also requires that owners obtain an animal-keeping certification from Washington State University by taking classes offered by the WSU extension office.
Neighboring Liberty Lake does not permit livestock – including miniature livestock – or beekeeping, Harnois said.
Councilman Mike Munch said there is no need to reinvent the wheel and come up with completely new regulations. He suggested Spokane Valley simply adopt the city of Spokane’s slightly more lenient rules.
“I’d like for kids in our area to have some small 4-H animals and that’s currently not really allowed,” Munch said.
Spokane adopted its urban farming regulations in 2014 and there have been few problems associated with urban farms, city of Spokane spokesperson Brian Coddington said.
Woodard cautioned that animals can get sick, especially if they are kept too close together. That’s something to consider in an urban setting, he said.
“We have to be careful especially if we get into larger animals,” Woodard said. “Wait until you have to wrestle a bull that’s gotten out in a neighborhood. We are not rural anymore.”
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