McMURRAY – On a regular basis, the Peters Township Zoning Hearing Board fields requests for variances on existing ordinances, such as the need to encroach a few extra feet near a boundary to build a shed or swimming pool.
But Tuesday, the board will tackle a fowl subject: an unusual request by Daniel and Alexandra Lucas to allow them to have chickens at their residence at 100 Cornerstone Court in the Venetia area of the township.
The township has an ordinance that prohibits farm-type animals, such as poultry, on property of less than 10 acres. The Lucas’ property is just a quarter-acre in the Cornerstone plan, hence, a variance would be required to keep chickens.
Attempts to reach the Lucases were unsuccessful. Township zoning officer Emily Moldovan said there is not an attorney indicated on the Lucases’ request.
Township manager Michael Silvestri said he believes the chickens are already in residence on the property nestled in a cluster plan of homes on small lots with large common space. After receiving complaints about the fowl, Silvestri said the township issued a citation, which the Lucas family is appealing before the zoning hearing board.
Raising backyard chickens has become something of a trend, with websites and even a magazine devoted to the subject.
“Yes, we have had more people calling us saying they want to do this,” said Pam Paletta, 4-H educator with the Penn State Extension office in Washington County. The extension provides educational material about how to raise chickens. She said she has noticed an increase in the number of calls from the public in the last two years.
“It’s becoming more popular because of whole nature-natural thing,” she said. “People like having their own eggs.” She said that some agricultural stores are even selling upscale chicken coops for keeping backyard poultry.
Several families in Mt. Lebanon, Allegheny County, are raising chickens, as well as others having apiaries. The issue of farm life coming to the suburbs is expected to be addressed by the Mt. Lebanon commissioners at an upcoming meeting.
Silvestri said he is not aware of any other chicken coops in residential areas in the township, which is the most densely populated community in Washington County.
Maintaining chickens is becoming a “big issue” in Peters Township, Silvestri said. The current ordinance lists certain small domestic animals that may be housed in a residence, Silvestri said, like dogs and cats.
“Poultry has to be on a farm,” he said, adding the issue needs to be addressed with officials taking a townshipwide stand on where owning poultry would be permitted.
The five-member zoning hearing board will address the appeal at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, in council chambers in the municipal building, 610 E. McMurray Road.
The request for a variance to maintain chickens is the only item on the agenda.