Pittsburgh urban farming takes 'big step forward' with new ordinance
July 8, 2015 12:00 AM
Goats are released on a hillside in Polish Hill to eat brush and vines not easily cut back by other means in 2014.
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday making it cheaper and easier for residents to get permits to raise chickens and goats and keep beehives.
The ordinance replaces a 2011 urban agriculture zoning law that charged city residents fees totaling $340 and required a hearing process that could take 10 to 12 weeks. Now, homeowners and renters can bring a site plan detailing a desired coop, apiary or other animal structure and get a permit in a single day for $70.
“It’s a big step forward for the chicken people,” said Jody Noble-Choder, organizer of the annual Chicks in the Hood urban chicken coop tour who also runs an urban “farm” and bed-and-breakfast with her husband in Highland Park.
“Not only was the process expensive and time-consuming, but there was about a 50 [percent] chance that you may not get approval.”
Shelly Danko+Day, an “open space specialist” who focuses on urban agriculture and food policy at the Department of City Planning, said only 13 people had applied for and obtained the permit under the former process.
“It wasn’t a functioning section of the code, so we needed to update it,” she said.
Mayor Bill Peduto will sign the bill in the coming days, spokesman Tim McNulty said.
Under the new law, city residents living on a property of at least 2,000 square feet could get a permit allowing five chickens or ducks or two dehorned miniature goats, as well as two beehives. Roosters are not allowed. Only three chickens or ducks were allowed under the previous ordinance.
For each additional 1,000 square feet of property, the resident is permitted one additional chicken or duck, but no additional livestock, such as goats, for lots under 10,000 square feet. For lots of at least 15,000 square feet, residents may own one additional goat, with one more goats allowed for every 5,000 additional square feet of property. There is a two-goat minimum because the animals react badly to being alone.
Jana Thompson of the Pittsburgh Pro Poultry People, who helped draft the ordinance with Mrs. Noble-Choder and others, estimated the city is home to some 400 to 500 chicken coops that currently are illegal. Some “renegade farmers” will likely remain as such, she said, but the new law means some “from the first step will do it correctly.”
The ordinance also outlines certain structure requirements. Councilwoman Darlene Harris added amendments saying they should be covered, well-ventilated, dry, predator-resistant and maintained to prevent excrement from accumulating.
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @molly_born.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.