On Summit County’s menu: Backyard chickens, busy bees and community gardens
Ryan Summerlin July 24, 2013
Summit County has historically relied on non-local sources for its food.
However, the county is working to update its zoning regulations and make it easier for residents to produce food in their own backyards.
Kristin Dean, principal planner for Summit County, has drafted a new set of regulations, which, if passed, would allow residents in unincorporated Summit County to raise a limited number of chickens and small goats, tend bees and facilitate the expansion of community gardens.
“The impetus behind this is to facilitate more local food production and gain easier access to fresh, local, healthy food for more of our population,” Dean said.
The planner said the county’s efforts are part of a wider movement across the country to embrace locally grown food sources.
“Planners are getting involved because we are trying remove zoning barriers that prohibit local food production,” she said.
While the county has drafted new regulations and guidelines for residents to start their own local food ventures, the nonprofit group High Country Conservation Center plans to be an educational resource to bring small-scale farming to fruition.
The nonprofit has been holding classes at Colorado Mountain College and providing information on its website. Staff will also answer questions regarding the implementation of projects.
“They are your go-to people,” Dean said. “We are just setting it up so that if you want to have chickens, goats or bees, here are the guidelines you need to follow to make sure there is no impact on adjacent property owners.”
HC3’s community programs director Jen Santry said a small network has already been emerging in preparation for new regulations, including a group of people who are planning to build chicken coops and provide feed. Others are hoping to attract a veterinarian to the area who can treat chickens and goats.
“There is a lot already happening before the regs even come out, knowing that will be a need,” Santry said. “A lot of people are stepping up and saying, ‘I’m interested.’”
Dean said residents won’t need a permit to raise the low-impact, low-maintenance animals on county properties, but residents will need to abide by the regulations.
Properties under two acres can accommodate up to four chickens, but no roosters. Chickens must be kept at the back of the property and must be at least 15 feet from property lines, Dean said.
Up to four female and wethered (castrated) male miniature goats will be allowed on properties under two acres, but the county is recommending property owners have at least an acre to support the goats.
Special regulations will also be in place for beekeepers. A full list of the draft regulations can be found at the county planning department and the HC3 website.
A planning commission meeting will be held on Aug. 5, which will lead to a recommendation for county commissioners to adopt or deny the proposed regulations.
If the new regulations are approved, it will not affect residents who live within town limits. Lina Lesmes, a planner with the town of Silverthorne, said her office has been directed by the town council to research and prepare a draft ordinance regarding the keeping of backyard chickens.
County planner Dean said Summit County is a little behind the curve when it comes to backyard farming, so those involved in the process have been able to research models of other communities. This research has made her confident that the proposed regulations make sense, she said.
“Because we have been waiting so long to get the regulations changed, other cities and counties have had regulations in place for a while and a lot of the myths about these animals have been debunked,” Dean said.
If adopted, the new farming regulations would make it easier for community members to build their own gardens, or join in HC3’s community garden network, Santry said.
Each new community garden will be required to go through the administrative site-plan review process, Dean said.
Santry said she hopes the new farming regulations will help HC3 expand its Community Supported Agriculture program, which provides locally grown produce to community members who don’t have their own garden. HC3 currently has a waiting list of 20 people for the CSA.
“With enough land and larger infrastructure, we believe we could expand our shares from 25 to 100,” Santry said. “This is something we’ll continue working on over the next one to two years.”
HC3 has a petition supporting the county’s draft regulation changes available on its website.
The Countywide Planning Commission meeting will be held on Aug. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Mountain Room in the County Commons.