Chicken coops and bees dominated the discussion during Monday night’s public hearing about the proposed changes to the Cleveland Heights zoning code.
The city hosted the forum to get feedback from residents on the more sustainable provisions it wants to add to the zoning code. The city worked with Chicago-based consultant Camiros, Ltd., which performed a sustainability audit.
Karen Knittel, city planner, presented a slideshow outlining the changes, which encourage people and businesses to be more sustainable by making it clear if food gardens are permitted in front yards, for example, or what the code says about solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal units. The code also explains how to get approval for chicken coops, farmers markets and more.
After the presentation, many residents wanted to discuss the code's restrictions on beehives and the plan to allow residents to keep up to four hens.
One resident said his only concern is that there is no provision for beehives. He's been a beekeeper for nearly 40 years.
"Honeybees are absolutely essential for sustainable agriculture, as well as to sustain humans. Let us not put obstacles in the path of those who wish to make our city completely sustainable," Stan Hockey said.
A couple of people said they agreed, and also wanted to talk about chicken coops.
Jan Kious said she's kept chickens in her backyard for 20 years in Cleveland Heights.
"Because my neighbors have never complained to anybody, I've peacefully lived with chickens," Kious said, adding that she and a neighbor share six hens and dogs are louder. "The fact that the city of Cleveland is so far ahead of us is awful, so good for you guys."
Cleveland Heights resident Bonnie Dolezal said she and her neighbors were "horrified" when they discovered the city was permitting chickens, and asked who would inspect and regulate the coops.
Dennis Wilcox, vice mayor on City Council, said the planning commission would handle oversight of this and many of the other new sustainable codes. The city does not plan to hire additional staff.
"You've got to be kidding me. Chicken coops in Cleveland Heights? I know I live in a very liberal community, but chicken coops shock the heck out of me," said resident Rita O'Conner. "You know what it draws? Rats."
Wilcox said the Planning Commission will regulate the coops, and if the feed is not properly stored and attracts vermin or the hens are otherwise disturbing the neighborhood, the commission can revoke the conditional use permit required to have the coop.
But not all of the approximately 30 residents who attended the meeting wanted to talk about bees and chickens. Jeff Coryell, who ran for City Council in November, said he "applauded council and (its) hard work on this and for taking this very important step in the right direction."
But he suggested the city consider how it will educate the community on the changes and implementation of some of the new sustainable codes. He also recommended the city add incentives for being more sustainable.
"My heart sank a little every time I saw 'encourage' or 'allow,'" Coryell said. "Why not have incentives or requirements?"
Coryell and resident Michael Morse also want the city to work with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board on its sustainability policies, especially as it develops .
Mayor Ed Kelley said the city will review the code every six months to a year to make any necessary changes or additions.
A draft of that revised code is available on the city's website here. Residents can write online or attend a public meeting to comment on the revisions.
The Planning Commission will discuss the revisions at its regularly scheduled meeting in at 7 p.m. April 11, and City Council will then consider adopting the zoning code amendments at its meeting April 16.
What portion of the revised zoning code is most important to you? Tell us in the comments.