Action taken Tuesday evening by the Walker Township Board of Supervisors officially expands opportunities for residents to keep chickens and ducks.
By the same vote, the board sent proposed changes to campsite regulations back to the drawing board for clarification.
Tuesday’s vote to update the township’s zoning ordinance to make poultry-keeping more accessible is the culmination of eight months’ discussion among supervisors, township planners and local residents. The Huntingdon County Planning Commission also weighed in on the issue.
The motion giving final approval to the amendments regarding livestock was made by Matthew Johnson and seconded by chairman Joseph Harford, who both cast “yes” votes. Supervisor Stephen Felton was an able to attend Tuesday’s session due to a scheduling conflict.
The new guidelines state that a lot size of three-quarters of an acre is the base-line requirement to keep chickens and ducks and further decrees that all coops, runs and other accommodations for the flock must stand at least 10 feet from side and rear property lines.
The number of birds to a flock depends on lot size. At the minimum acreage, the maximum number of birds is six. At two acres, the flock can increase up to a dozen birds and at five acres, the number of birds is unlimited.
The township previously required a 300-foot setback for chickens, ducks and accessory structures.
During a public hearing in April, township officials noted that residents living within housing developments need to review neighborhood covenants, which would supersede the ordinance, before deciding to keep chickens or ducks.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Walker Township resident Jim Ardry, who’s been part of the chicken discussion from the start, presented supervisors with one more livestock guideline to consider.
Ardry suggested Walker Township implement a permitting program exclusive to 4-H participants that would allow youth to keep chickens and other project animals.
“If you could have like a $5 or $10 fee for a 4-H program, where a kid who’s in 4-H could come here and get a 4-H project permit to do what he needs to do for his progress,” Ardry said.
Ardry presented the board with a newspaper clipping featuring a report on Carson Riley, one of Huntingdon County’s 4-H participants who was honored as a 2023 Georgia Boot Trailblazer, one of four 4-Hers in the nation to claim the award.
Ardry presented the article to supplement his argument about the value of 4-H.
“It’s a good thing to get our youth involved with 4-H and not in cell phones and drugs and other things that could be detrimental,” he said. “It should be the responsibility of our township and the citizens to help that process.”
He also referred back to statements made at the October township meeting by Haylee Riley who shared how raising animals through 4-H taught her not just how to raise animals but how to manage finances and other responsibilities. Riley, from Penn Township, is a 4-H leader and noted some of her participants are Walker Township residents.
Harford recommended that Ardry present his permitting idea to the Walker Township Planning Commission for consideration.
The commission “really needs to be the body to move those conversations forward,” he said.
During their discussion on the proposed changes to rules governing single-site campgrounds, Johnson, Harford and code enforcement officer Jim Morris determined the changes, as written, might leave the door open to misinterpretation.
The intent of the changes, according to secretary Julie Johns, is to make single-site campsites an allowable use within the township’s Conservation District Zone.
Solicitor Larry Lashinsky said the ordinance, as it stands prior to amendment, lists single-site campgrounds as a conditional use throughout the township.
Johnson said he’s concerned that residents might be confused on where and when they can set up a camper. For example, can a family set up an RV in their driveway or backyard for a weekend to entertain guests under the proposed changes, Johnson asked.
“There are more questions than answers at this time,” Hanford said and suggested the board “put this back into conversation with the planning commission and get this hashed out.”
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