PHOENIX — Saying Arizonans have a constitutional right to fresh chicken and eggs, state lawmakers are moving to override city ordinances that restrict the ownership of fowl.
The proposal by Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, would declare that the rights of property owners to raise poultry trumps the rights of the folks next door not to have to put up with them. SB 1151 would void any existing city ordinance to the contrary.
The law would apply only to detached single-family homes. Owners of town houses and condos still would have to live chicken-free.
Cities would be able to limit the number of fowl. And roosters could still be forbidden unless they lacked the ability to crow.
But it would allow homeowners to put the pens right up against the property line, a significant change for cities such as Tucson, which permits up to 24 chickens on a residential lot. But the ordinance requires the coop to be at least 50 feet from any dwelling on an adjacent property.
Adam Smith of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department said, given the size of many lots, that restriction effectively precludes raising chickens in much of the city.
Yuma has a similar situation, where chickens can be kept on city-size lots of less than 10,000 square feet only if written permission is first obtained from those owning and living on adjacent parcels.
Cottonwood allows a dozen fowl in certain zoning. And Yavapai County limits chickens to eight per lot, with containment area at least 15 feet from all property lines.
And other places, like Sierra Vista, ban chickens outright.
Farnsworth said Wednesday that’s not the role of cities, calling bans and severe restrictions “kind of ridiculous.”
“The proper role of government according to the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution is to protect the liberty of the people,” he said. “Liberty of the people is being eroded, particularly property rights.”
Farnsworth said the issue of animal ownership is that it’s more than a simple question of preference. He said that, growing up in Mesa, if his family had not had chickens, as well as rabbits and goats, family members might have been short on food at times.
Twenty-one other legislators, out of the 90 at the Capitol, have signed on as co-sponsors.
Farnsworth acknowledged a next-door neighbor might not want a chicken pen right up against the fence. But he said that right to live in a chicken-free zone is limited.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that our own property rights on our property need to be supreme,” Farns-worth said.
Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said it’s not that simple.
“I think the issue is: Whose freedom are you protecting?” he said. Strobeck said people who buy homes in urban areas have certain expectations of what life will be like.
“If there are noises or smells or things that are not anticipated when they purchased in that neighborhood, then their property rights are being infringed on,” he said.