A resident who said she wants to be able to responsibly raise chickens in her backyard received a relatively enthusiastic response from Hellertown Borough Council Monday night.
Kayleigh Kromka explained that as a former Lower Saucon Township resident she has experience tending to a flock, but hasn’t been able to since she moved into town.
The borough’s current ordinance doesn’t ban backyard chickens outright, but mandates that coops be at least 75 feet away from homes; a requirement Kromka said it is difficult to meet due to the small lot sizes in most of the borough.
“I don’t know any house in the borough that would make 75 feet–that’s very hard,” she told council.
“In general, in a community, people want to live in a place where they’re able to do this,” she said, noting that a side effect of the Covid pandemic has been increased interest in urban agriculture.
Kromka said she has researched how other municipalities are adapting to the changing mindset, including the city of Bethlehem, which is moving closer to allowing residents to keep up to six chickens in their yards.
An amendment to the city’s current ordinance has undergone an extensive review process that has included allowing a small number of residents to have chickens on a trial basis.
Kromka said she likes the proposed Bethlehem ordinance’s requirements, which include a ban on roosters.
The proposed bill would also require that chicken coops be kept in rear yards; be at least 20 feet from structures with habitable space on adjacent properties; be at least 25 feet from any street; and be at least five feet from property lines. The size of coops would also be regulated, with nothing over 8 feet high or in excess of 120 square feet permitted.
Kromka reminded council that it previously considered updating its ordinance regulating backyard chickens in response to a resident’s request in 2018.
She said it is likely that more residents are interested in raising chickens now than were interested five years ago.
Councilmen Andrew Hughes and Matt Marcincin along with council president Tom Rieger and councilwoman Liz Thompson all voiced support for potentially updating the borough’s ordinance to make it less restrictive, following research by borough staff, who were directed to prepare a draft ordinance for council to review in August.
“Obviously, I love hearing that,” Kromka responded.
Rieger said that at one time he was probably opposed to loosening the regulations, but–noting the recent volatility of egg prices–said his views on the subject have evolved.
Thompson said she would like to have information about how updating the ordinance could potentially impact borough zoning and codes enforcement officer Kris Russo’s workload.
Council ultimately directed Russo, borough manager Cathy Hartranft and other staff members to work on the draft prior to council’s Monday, Aug. 21 meeting.
Rieger noted that the earliest an updated borough ordinance could be adopted is sometime in October.
In other business, council confirmed Rick Delmore as Dewey Fire Co. No. 1’s new chief. Delmore replaces Matt Simkovic, who stepped down last month, citing work obligations.
Council also received an update on the Hellertown Area Library from Marcincin, who is council liaison to the library board of trustees.
He said the search for a new library director is on after current director Noelle Kramer announced her resignation. After three-and-a-half years leading the HAL, Kramer and her family are moving back to their native Pittsburgh area, Marcincin said. He noted that Kramer has guided the library through a challenging period that has included the Covid pandemic and the loss of financial support from an agreement with Lower Saucon Township, which is no longer a municipal partner in the Hellertown Area Library.
Weather has also proved a challenge for the library of late, he said, noting that storm water from recent heavy rains infiltrated and damaged the library’s basement. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the ongoing cleanup effort should contact the library, he added.
Briefly discussed during the meeting was a proposal to build a microhospital and medical office building on the site of the former Champion spark plug factory on Main Street.
Correction: In an earlier published version of this story it was incorrectly reported that the Hellertown Planning Commission was expected to further discuss the Champion proposal in August. The commission reviewed a sketch plan for the Champion site proposal in July, however the preliminary plans are not expected to be discussed at the Tuesday, Aug. 15 HPC meeting.