Yet another backyard chicken application in northern Overland Park rejected on split vote

Photo credit Thomas Vlerick. Used under a Creative Commons license.

It took two roll calls and a deciding vote by Mayor Carl Gerlach, but the city council kept to its guns and denied another backyard chicken request in northern Overland Park Monday night.

In so doing the council reversed a planning commission recommendation that Amy Gloeb be allowed to keep six hens on her property at 8032 Antioch Road, just north of City Hall.

A map showing approving applications for backyard chickens in green and rejected applications in red.

The decision was consistent with a north vs. south pattern that has become the norm as council members consider whether chickens should be allowed. In general, chickens have been allowed on the city’s southern edge, but denied north of Interstate 435.

That pattern held up Monday, despite the planning commission’s blessing, a neighbor’s letter in support and Gloeb’s agreement not to keep a rooster and to accept a one-year expiration rather than the 10 years on the permit. Gloeb had no known opposition to the chickens, which she said would be kept in an enclosed coop and chicken run.

Council members Terry Happer Scheier and Logan Heley, who represent the areas furthest north, have supported urban chickens in the past and did so again Monday. Councilmember Paul Lyons, in the next ward south, opposed them (the other representative from that ward, Curt Skoog, was absent). In the next wards down, councilmember Faris Farassati voted yes and as did Councilmember Jim Kite.

“We’ve approved six chickens on lot sizes – not in this part of the city (but) elsewhere in the city. The rules apply to the whole city,” said Kite, who noted that he is usually a no vote on chickens. “I think we can give this lady a year. So I’ll support the motion because her lot size is similar to other lot sizes that have been approved by this council in the last three or four years.”

The city allows chickens, with some restrictions, on lots of three acres or more. A special use permit is needed for less than three acres.

The council has approved special use permits, but they’ve all been at the far southern edge of town, near 191st Street. All of the recent approvals were on lots bigger than an acre. Gloeb’s lot is 1.04 acres.

But council members from the southern wards were adamantly opposed to chickens in the parts of town that are denser with smaller lots. The larger lots and houses spaced farther apart are more appropriate for fowl, they have said.

“One question I have for you is why?” said Councilmember David White. “You’ve got small properties all around you. What is the reason why we should grant an exception?”

Gloeb replied that over an acre is a good size and the chickens would be a good learning experience for her children. “I’ve always wanted to have chickens,” she said.

In past discussions, council members have also expressed concerns about diseases that could be spread by bad flock tending. But Heley quoted statistics from a news source saying 10 million U.S. homes have chickens but there were only 1,000 salmonella incidents last year, mostly caused by a lack of public education.

Nevertheless, the majority of the council remained steady in its opposition.

“I do not believe farm animals — and the applicant called them exactly that – belong in an urban area. The only place they do belong is an area that has sufficient acreage,” White said. He called it a “slippery slope,” that could eventually open the gate to goats for goat milk.

“Farm animals belong in a farm setting and one acre in the middle of an urban area is not a farm setting,” he said.

The council voted against the permit 7-4. Rules required them to either send the proposal back to planning commission or deny it with a supermajority of nine votes. Seven of the previous no votes, joined by Kite, voted for denial. Mayor Carl Gerlach cast the deciding vote.