Mt. Lebanon discusses possible rules for urban agriculture

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At one point, the suburban landscape of Mt. Lebanon primarily was farmland.

These days, the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak.

With a number of residents finding a source of fresh eggs by raising their own fowl, Mt. Lebanon officials are faced with inquiries about ordinances governing chickens as well as the keeping of bees and other such activity. 

Mt. Lebanon commissioners addressed the matter during their discussion session prior to Monday’s meeting, learning in the process that the municipality doesn’t have much on the books regarding chickens, bees or other animals beyond the usual domesticated pets.

Commissioner John Bendel said a resident contacted him recently to ask about beehives on a neighbor’s property.

“The person who called is allergic to bees, which is a serious concern,” he said.

Nothing on Mt. Lebanon’s books really addresses the issue.

“I know it’s of interest to a lot of folks who want to raise bees for honey and other purposes,”  Mr. Bendel said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Kelly Fraasch said she has been notified of residents’ chickens running  into roads and nearly causing accidents. She expressed surprise “that we allow, basically, it’s open-ended as to what animals are allowed on properties.”

Keith McGill, municipal planner, said that discussion about “urban agriculture” has started to arise more often among Pennsylvania’s municipalities.

“Within the last three years, it’s become sort of a hot topic,” he said, adding that he has neighbors who raise chickens for eggs.

His office is taking a look at ordinances in other municipalities that cover certain animals, with the possibility of Mt. Lebanon eventually adopting some type of measures.

In other business Monday:

• During their regular meeting, commissioners approved a measure to lease and eventually convey property Mt. Lebanon owns at 794 Washington Road to the Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon. The society now occupies part of the building and plans renovations for an expanded history center.

The three commissioners present Monday expressed enthusiasm about the project.

“I think it will be one of the best things I do as a commissioner,” Ms. Fraasch said of her vote, noting the importance of documenting and celebrating the community’s history.

Commissioner Steve Silverman and Mr. Bendel also voted in favor.

“You can’t really chart your future until you understand your past,”  Mr. Bendel said.

• Commissioners paid tribute to Edward Meyer, who has served the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department since joining as a volunteer on April 7, 1963.

Mr. Meyer, who became a paid firefighter in 1966 and platoon chief in 1972, retired in 1998. He continues to volunteer for the department.

The commission’s citation, as read by municipal manager Stephen Feller, calls attention to Mr. Meyer’s expertise in communications systems.

“He just has an encyclopedic knowledge of all those things in the municipality,” said Mr. Feller, noting that Mr. Meyer also is known in the community for his antique fire apparatus and calliope that he operates in local parades.

Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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