Summit County residents are one step closer to becoming backyard homesteaders.
The Board of County Commissioners approved a new set of urban farming regulations into their zoning development codes that allow residents in unincorporated Summit County to raise a limited number of chickens and small goats and tend bees. The regulations also facilitate the expansion of community gardens.
The amendments were approved unanimously on Tuesday afternoon during the Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Kristin Dean, principal planner for Summit County, presented the regulations to county commissioners. Her presentation was a follow-up to two prior work sessions with the commissioners that took place over the summer.
Dean outlined the major recommendations made through the regulations, which would allow residents to raise up to six chickens (no roosters) on their property. The new regulations also permit beekeeping on residential property. Goats will be allowed on residential property of 40,000 square feet or larger, she said.
Each of these uses comes with a myriad of regulations put in place to minimize impacts on adjacent properties, Dean said. While residents won’t need a permit to raise the low-impact, low-maintenance animals on county properties, they will need to abide by the regulations, she said.
The High Country Conservation Center has agreed to be the go-to educational resource to provide information and support to residents who want to implement their own backyard farming practices.
“We are definitely 100 percent behind offering community education,” HC3 community programs director Jennifer Santry told commissioners at the meeting. Santry came equipped with 400 signatures of support collected from community members.
The nonprofit employee said she was happy with the regulations.
“I love that they are really open. It gives people a better opportunity to get into it by not having as much oversight,” she said.
Over time, Santry said, she wouldn’t be surprised if small tweaks needed to be made to the regulations, but she said she was confident there were enough experts and sources of information available to “feel the way out.”
While commissioners expressed gratitude to Dean and Santry for putting together the farm regulations, they also asked for special attention to be paid to feedback received from the changes in zoning.
“All three of us are going to be very curious about how it’s going, so I hope you can be helpful to us in terms of that feedback,” Commissioner Thomas Davidson said to Santry.
Local beekeeper Larry Gilliland attended the meeting in support of the farming regulations. He told commissioners backyard farming is enough of investment that people should take it seriously.
“Don’t make regulations too onerous for people silly enough to get into beekeeping,” he told commissioners.
“I liken beekeeping a little bit to owning a sailboat. A sailboat has been described as a hole in the water you throw money into, and beekeeping is a little bit like having a box in your backyard you throw money into.”
While the county commissioners were the first entity in Summit County to approve beekeeping, and other backyard farming methods, many other communities throughout Colorado and the nation already have similar regulations in place.
“We really aren’t the frontrunners here. With all of the research and plenty of other communities to use as models, it gives me a lot of comfort,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeyer said.
In addition to allowing the keeping of chickens, goats and bees on residential properties, the new zoning regulations include clauses supporting the growth of community gardens in Summit County.