Chattanooga City Council clarifies urban agricultural zone rules

Chattanooga City Council clarifies urban agricultural zone rules

October 4th, 2017 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Chattanooga City councilmen Chip Henderson, left, and Darrin Ledford.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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The Chattanooga City Council has tweaked a number of amendments to urban agricultural zoning regulations.

Last week, the council voted 6-3 to approve a suite of changes doing away with the longstanding requirement for at least 20 acres of property before seeking to rezone land for agricultural uses. The new rules say it only takes 5 acres and a site plan to seek urban agricultural zoning. They also provide for a special revocable permit for properties smaller than 5 acres.

The changes approved last night in a 7-2 vote included clarifications on where new barns may be built on properties rezoned for urban agriculture.

"This alternate version makes it very clear that new barns would be located 150 feet from residential areas," Councilman Chip Henderson said. "Existing barns would be grandfathered in, whether for any kind of livestock or fowl."

Councilman Darrin Ledford

Councilman Darrin Ledford

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Councilman Chip Henderson

Councilman Chip Henderson

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Councilman Darrin Ledford said the original text of the proposed zoning amendments left it unclear whether new barns could be built as close as 25 feet away from neighboring properties. He switched his "no" vote to a "yes" vote this week after the clarification.

"I just wanted to note the 150-foot setback was a confusing item in the 'whereas' clause, and that now has been corrected," Ledford said.

Council members Carol Berz and Ken Smith, the panel's vice chairman, voted "no," as they did last week. The pair have voiced concerns over making exceptions to the proposed 5-acre threshold.

"I think there's been no need shown across the city for this," Berz has said.

City code states no barn or structure housing livestock may be built or maintained within 25 feet of any property line or within 150 feet of any residential property. The most recent version of the ordinance states this in a number of places.

Another carryover from existing codes requires each cow, horse, pig or other large farm animal to have at least 1 acre of pasture, while goats, sheep, emus and other small animals must each have one-quarter acre. No more than 20 fowl — which includes chickens, ducks and turkeys — may live on one acre.

The new zoning rules also call for a 25-foot buffer between animal fencing and neighboring property lines unless the owner of the adjoining property also raises livestock. However, swine must be kept at 150 feet away from residential property lines, as must new enclosures for fowl.

Livestock food must be kept at least 150 away from any residential building and 150 feet from neighboring residential properties.

While described as clarifications, the changes were enough to count as a whole new ordinance.

As with any city ordinance, the council will need to vote on it on a second and final reading. In this case, that reading will be Oct. 10.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.