Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't Be a Nuisance

Lots of (cold) excited gardeners!
Amberley Women's Forum, Property Maintenance, Backyard Chickens 

The Amberley Women's Forum met again this week. Every month, for the past four months, Amberley women have been gathering at different homes to discuss various topics of interest to the residents of Amberley. There are no requirements or impediments to joining, other than being a woman. Past topics have included Amberley updates, police block watch and neighborhood safety, and Pleasant Ridge Montessori School. There are some "regulars" in attendance, but the group is fluid, with new people joining us whenever they are free on the night we meet. The best part is we drink wine and no book-reading is required! That is not to say that we will never read a book, but if a book club sprouts from this group all the better. The idea is to make connections to our fellow Amberley neighbors. While we love our 1 acre lots, we still miss the camaraderie that comes from getting to know each other on a casual basis. Already, as a direct result of this group, the women of Amberley can join the Amberley Women's Tennis league that will be playing regularly on our community tennis courts. Please send me an email if you want more information about this group because you will be warmly welcomed.

Will Jackson presents his Eagle Scout project
One of the topics of Wednesday's discussion, which was themed "current Amberley affairs" was the upcoming Public Hearing on the Ordinance Allowing Domesticated Chickens.  One resident was concerned because there were properties in her neighborhood that were already not being maintained in accordance with Amberley's Property Maintenance Code and that allowing these neighbors to raise chickens would add to the property infractions that are already in place.  This is a very real concern, but it was pointed out that there are already provisions in place to deal with such infractions. The important thing is that residents must be willing to bring such code violations to the attention of Village Hall. Once Village Hall is made aware of the unkempt or unsightly property, an investigation can be made into zoning violations. If violations are noted, the resident can be given fair warning, or even fined. Please do not be hesitant in calling the Village to report continued nuisances.

 With regard to chickens, it is important to note that the Chicken Ordinance clearly states that:

§ 154.54 CHICKENS.
(A)  Notwithstanding other provisions in the Village Code of Ordinances, 
chickens may be kept within the Village in any residential district subject to the following 
rules and conditions.

So, to address concerns about chickens that become a nuisance, or trespass on your neighbor's property, one needs only to look to the zoning code which already has provisions in place to ticket or fine such infractions. You are not allowed to let your dog, cat, or other animal trespass, nor are you allowed to let your chickens be trespassers on your neighbor's property. 

There was also a question about whether the chickens would be "free-range," and whether chickens would wander onto various household properties. Again, Amberley already has laws against that sort of thing, 


   No person owning, harboring or having the care of any dog, cat, fowl or other animal, shall permit the same to run at large so as to trespass upon the property of another in a manner as to do damage to gardens, lawns, shrubbery or other property of another.

Additionally, the Chicken Ordinance itself requires that:

(D) Habitat.

(1)  Chickens may only be maintained outdoors in a predator-proof 
chicken house, coop, or other structure that is thoroughly ventilated, of sufficient 
size to permit free movement of the animals, designed to be easily accessed, 
cleaned, and maintained by the owner, and at least two square feet in size for each 

Any suggestion that the proposed ordinance allows chickens to be "free-range" in the sense that they not be confined at all is strictly rumor. Further, since we live in an area with an abundance of hawks, vultures, and other predatory wildlife, it would be imprudent to let your chickens run free, lest they become a meal for one of Amberley's true "free-range" animals.

The Women's Forum was very positive about allowing chickens, and were especially excited to take home some freshly-laid eggs.  The Public Hearing on the Ordinance will be at the May 14th Council meeting and I encourage residents who have any interest or questions to come. By passing an ordinance permitting backyard chickens, Amberley joins the multitude of Cincinnati and Hamilton County communities that are already allowing their residents to raise chickens for eggs. 

Amberley Green Garden

Mary Lennard shows the garden plot layout
Last Monday, the first meeting of gardeners was held at the site which will be the location of the Amberley Green Garden. There is space for 40 gardeners to each cultivate their own 9'x15' garden plot. Next Monday, May 7th, representatives of the Environmental Stewardship Committee will ask the Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance to construct a 7 1/2 foot high deer fence. Residents can begin gardening as soon as the fence is erected (or sooner, but at their own risk). Those gardening will use organic practices under the helpful advice of residents David Dyke, OSU extension agent, and Kathy Wise, who along with her husband Rabbi Irv Wise, have been growing vegetables organically for years. The Amberley Green Garden brings to fruition months of diligent work by both residents and council members with the financial backing of a grant from We Thrive! No Village funds were used on any We Thrive! project, and we are proud to use the funding for projects that will 1) create a community meeting place as well as a means of learning about growing food, 2) create walking paths for our residents while forming partnerships with the Cincinnati Park Board and local and Israeli scouting troops, 3) provide access to public transportation to people who must come and go to and from Amberley for work. Amberley Village is a leader among Hamilton County communities in its commitment to the health and well-being of our residents. For more information on joining the Amberley Green Garden, request a "Welcome Packet" from
Council Member Tom Muething explains the rainwater collection

Continuing Education

Finally, as  I've mentioned in other blog posts, being a member of council gives me access to a number of educational workshops and seminars designed to educate elected officials about current trends in government and cities. Today I had the opportunity to attend a workshop given by the Hamilton County Planning Commission which focused on economic development and sustainable communities. One thing that I took away was that it is vitally important to invest in our own community in order to attract business and development to Amberley. Transit access, walking and cycling paths, access to green space are all sought-after amenities by businesses looking to grow or relocate. We have to ask ourselves what we are doing as a community to make ourselves attractive to development. Tomorrow I am attending a forum on "Form Based Codes" which ask what we want our community to look like as we develop it. These are questions that are always on my mind as we make our Village a more livable community for all ages.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


About a year ago, I attended my first meeting of the Environmental Stewardship Committee where the topic was supposed to be the creation of a proposed farmer's market in Amberley Village.  I was very interested in this as I try to do most of my shopping at local farmers' markets. Like many, I prefer to know where my food comes from, whether it's milk, vegetables, eggs, or meat products. I'm an avid baker and I prefer to use only natural ingredients, even if it means spending up to $4 for a dozen eggs. I believe that food tastes better and is better for you when it is used in its freshest and most natural state.

Well, to date, that farmers' market is nothing more than a dream for Amberley's future, but a question that arose at that meeting set me on a quest to find an answer. The question was "are we allowed to raise our own chickens for eggs in Amberley?" Such a simple question should have a simple answer, right? After all, I have heard for years that Amberley prides itself on its "rural" atmosphere. Heck, I was chastised for calling a "walking path" by the more pedestrian name of "sidewalk" while I was campaigning in favor of safer routes for pedestrians in our Village! Such a small distinction means the world to many of our residents. As for the raising of chickens, however, it seems that Amberley's zoning code hearkened back to a time when suburbanites were trying to shed their rural associations.  In our current Code, chickens likely fall under the definition of "farm animals" and farm animals are prohibited on properties of less than ten acres.  In today's world, chickens are more likely to take their place among the family's pets, have names, and be used to provide their owners with eggs. Section 154.25. Also see Section 154.02 for definitions.

After discussion with the Village manager, Scot Lahrmer, and the Village solicitor, Kevin Frank, I was advised that the way to make any changes to the Village Zoning Code was by bringing legislation to the Planning Commission. The Village Planning Commission is an independent entity consisting of residents who are appointed by Council to serve for four year terms. It's important to note that their terms outlast the  two year election cycle for candidates in Amberley so that the members of the Planning Commission (also the Board of Zoning Appeals) are not influenced by the whims of Council. The Planning Commission is established by the Village Charter and is tasked with hearing appeals to the zoning code and providing equitable relief from hardship, as well as drafting and approving legislation and making recommendations to Council. They hold hearings, call witnesses, and vote as a Board. Since I was asking for a change to the zoning code, I was advised that the Planning Commission was the appropriate committee, not, as I had initially proposed, the Health Education & Welfare committee or the Law Committee, two committees on which I either serve or chair.

The Ordinance that was voted on by 5-0 vote and recommended by the Planning Commission will allow residents to keep up to six chickens (hens only; no roosters) in a well-maintained coop, with liberal setback provisions. Chickens may not be slaughtered -- again, this is an ordinance to allow residents to raise eggs for their own consumption -- and other nuisance laws apply. Consistent with the zoning code, violation of the ordinance is a minor misdemeanor punishable by a $150 fine. A permit must be requested from the Village manager. The proposed Ordinance Section 154.54 can be read by clicking on the link. Unfortunately, if you, like me, live in a neighborhood that is governed by a set of restrictive covenants, like Rollman Estates, you cannot have domesticated chickens, even if Amberley Village passes this ordinance.

On May 14th, residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the proposed change to the zoning code. Please come to the Council meeting and you will be permitted to speak. In the meantime, I invite you to read this beautiful article in 513eats online magazine. It is written by Amberley resident and local food aficionado and chef, Ilene Ross, with photographs by Gina Weathersby.  The New York Times has been reporting on the rise of backyard chickens for several years. Closer to home, the City of Montgomery has a Facebook page dedicated to Chickens for Montgomery. Much of Amberley's ordinance was based upon information gathered from Montgomery, where chickens have been allowed by ordinance since 2009 with no complaints.

Please make sure you are subscribed to notices and the Village e-news on Amberley's website,