City Commission approves urban agriculture laws in Lawrence, rejects animal slaughter
Some Lawrence residents will be allowed to own goats and sheep, but not slaughter them, under new laws approved by the City Commission on Tuesday.
After discussion about how the city would enforce urban agriculture operations and to what sanitation regulations they’d have to abide, the commission voted 4-1 to approve a set of standards for what kind of agriculture is allowed on residential properties in city limits. The only piece of the 62-page amendment to city code that was not passed was a measure allowing for the slaughter and butchering of small agricultural animals.
“It seemed to me the vast majority of people had little to no problem with the agricultural components of this,” Commissioner Matthew Herbert said. “The sticking point was dealing with the issue of slaughter.”
Commissioners directed city staff to remove that piece from the code amendment. Mayor Mike Amyx still voted against the changes, saying he thought the city didn’t have the ability to adequately enforce sanitation rules that come with ownership of goats and sheep.
“I’ve got a concern about the animals,” Amyx said. “I think it’s a bigger deal than we can take on. The animal part is going to be tough.”
Also on the City Commission agenda (04-26-16)
Brian Jimenez, Lawrence’s code enforcement manager, said his staff would take on the enforcement of what’s included in the change, everything from sanitary standards to the size and design of produce stands and how closely crops can be grown to the public right-of-way.
Since 2012, the city has permitted Lawrence residents to own chickens and ducks. In that time, Jimenez said, his office receives about 10 to 15 complaints about chickens or ducks each year, and the city’s animal control staff responds to five to seven situations each month.
“It’s hard to say what we would get with this expansion, which is significant,” Jimenez said. “We always do the best we can. We incorporate additional duties as they come to us. It will be a learning process for us.”
Beekeeping will be allowed in city limits under the new law, which Herbert said was the “highlight” of all the changes.
“Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and diminishing quickly,” he said. “To make it so people don’t have to fly under the radar to do something like that is of great value.”
What is allowed
The changes to city code make clear what kind of agricultural operations Lawrence residents are allowed to have on their properties. Here’s a rundown of the major changes. Each of the following requires certain space requirements, structures and maintenance in order to be permitted. For more information on what the new law will include, see the attached document on LJWorld.com.
• Miniature goats and sheep
Lawrence residents with at least 10,000 square feet of property can own two goats or two sheep, and those with 20,000 square feet or more can have four goats or four sheep. You cannot own only one goat or one sheep. Mary Miller, city planner, said goats and sheep are “very social,” and it’s inhumane to have only one.
Residents can own two bee colonies on a lot that’s one-fourth acre or smaller. Lots between one-fourth and one-half acre may have four bee colonies, and six colonies are allowed with properties between one-half and one acre. Eight colonies are permitted on properties larger than one acre. “Bee hotels,” places for solitary pollinators to make their nests, are also allowed. Africanized honeybees are not permitted.
Ducks and hens have been allowed in city limits since 2012. Current city code states one duck or hen for every 500 square feet is permitted, and up to 20 ducks or hens are allowed without the need for a special-use permit. Roosters are not allowed.
• Other animals
Other crustaceans, insects and fish are also allowed under the proposed “small animal agriculture” land use, including crickets, worms, rabbits and crayfish.
Lawrence residents may grow crops, as long as they’re at least one foot away from sidewalks and shorter than three feet when they’re located within eight feet from a road or three feet from a sidewalk. Hoop houses, greenhouses, composting, waste bins and rain barrel systems are allowed.
• Agriculture sales
Unprocessed goods — such as eggs, honey, produce and flowers — can be sold at Lawrence residences and other places, including schools, religious institutions, libraries and day care centers. The goods must have been produced on site, and sales may only occur between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Meat products cannot be sold.
• Urban farms
Agriculture within city limits that is operated primarily as business and exceeds what’s allowed under the new urban agriculture guidelines is an urban farm. Urban farms, which are allowed only in some residentially zoned areas, will have to register with the city for a special-use permit.