Due to a zoning change that the Town Council approved on Monday, bees, chickens, and other bees are now permitted to remain within New Market town limits.
This code of town, which had previously banned poultry houses, now allows homeowners with up to 6 chickens coops on their residential property. The chickens, which cannot roam free and are required to remain in the coop located behind the house and must meet the setbacks of any accessory structures.
The ordinance bans roosters and the sale of eggs, meat, and the slaughtering of chickens. The code also restricts chickens to 500 feet of “poultry processing plant as well as poultry hatchery or poultry feed mill chicken truck lot and poultry farms, or on property that has facilities that are managed through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”
The law stipulates that zoning permits are required to keep chickens. The code also requires that the area in which they are kept is cleaned frequently and that any waste is removed quickly to avoid odors or insect-related problems.
The amendment also permits beekeeping on townhouses in residential areas and a maximum of two hive boxes permitted for properties of one more than an acre. Larger properties can be granted one additional hive box to each half-acre and a maximum of 8 boxes. Zoning permits are required to protect bees, and boxes must comply with the setbacks for accessory structures and be placed behind the house.
Town manager Todd Walters noted that written demands from the residents prompted the code change. A public hearing regarding the matter was held earlier in the month as the Town Manager Todd Walters and the Town Planner Meghan Rupkey claimed to have heard nothing objections regarding the changes proposed.
The amendment was passed with five votes, and councilmember Scott Wymer was not present. The mayor Larry Bompiani and Police Chief Chris Rinker also supported the amendment, as it offers an explicit description of what is and isn’t permitted — especially for chickens.
“We often receive a request that someone has chickens but there’s no law to say the number they (can) are,” Rinker said before the vote, noting that the amendment will give police and town staff officers “some support” in enforcing the town code.
Rupkey stated that violations would be considered as any other zoning offense. Therefore, violators will receive an official letter and be allowed to adhere before receiving the zoning board can impose fines or other punishment.
Vice Mayor Vice Peggy Harkness said she was initially worried about beekeeping, specifically concerning bee-related allergies. But, her fears were eased when she discovered bees that are “very tranquil” as well as “docile” insects.
Harkness said that the idea of letting residents in town raise chickens is in line with the trend to eat farm-to-table and is in line with the rural nature of New Market in line with council member Janice Hannah’s opinions.
“We live in an area that is rural, and it’s important to remember this,” Hannah said. “I believe that we must to have a plan to accommodate this. I purchase fresh eggs every day. I don’t buy eggs that are packaged in a box for me, it’s just me. Therefore, I’m grateful that we’re trying to provide some options” for those who want to keep chickens.
The Town Council council members Harkness, Hannah, Bob King, Peter Hughes, and Daryl Watkins, attended Monday’s meeting. Scott Wymer was absent.