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South Valley Riverton Journal

Riverton adopts ‘sliding scale’ model allowing chickens at homes based on property size

May 08, 2023 12:39PM ● By Travis Barton

With egg prices increasing and a general public sentiment in favor, Riverton City Council changed its code to allow chickens on residential properties down to .11 acre-lots. (Wikimedia Commons)

For Riverton, the chickens have come home to roost. Almost quite literally. 

The City Council unanimously approved to change its ordinance now allowing chickens on homes less than 10,000 square feet (approximately ¼ acre). 

Previously the city’s ordinance only allowed chickens—up to a maximum of six with no roosters allowed—on single-family lots of 10,000 square feet or more. Now the city ordinance will operate on a sliding scale, similar to what is done in Herriman, by allowing four chickens on lots from 5,000 to 8,000 square feet and six on lots larger than 8,000 square feet or .18 acres. 

Lots under 5,000 square feet (.11 acres) are not allowed chickens. 

Also included in the amendment is a stipulation that the distance of any structure keeping residential chickens cannot be within 25 feet of a neighbor’s house as a way to protect surrounding properties. 

Jon Thorup, a Riverton resident of seven years, initially brought the issue forward to the council as his family weighed the benefit of raising chickens “with the last few years being a little bit chaotic.”

As the price of eggs increased, and with a desire to teach his four boys self-reliance, Thorup looked to bring chickens to his home only to find his 9,000-square foot home was ineligible. 

Thorup did research on the city and found that most homes within his District 1 are “backyard heavy” with 250 homes similar in size. 

“I have more space in my backyard than some 10,000-square foot lots,” he told the council. 

Daryl Laments, representing the Salt Lake County Farm Bureau—a nonprofit organization interested in protecting agriculture in an urban environment—spoke prior to the vote in favor of the change supporting residents “being as self-sufficient as possible.” 

“We applaud the City Council for giving this some thoughtful consideration and perhaps a chance for more of Riverton’s residents to experience the miracle of agriculture,” he said. 

The council initially looked at an ordinance change in March which included a planning commission recommendation that would’ve allowed six chickens at lots under ¼ acre only if chickens can be kept 25 feet from a dwelling and within a three-square foot enclosure. However, city staff held reservations about the potential enforcement challenges and the council preferred the sliding scale model, postponing the vote until April. 

Several elected officials favor erring on the side of property rights, with Councilmember Andy Pierucci adding this can “reduce the burden on families.” 

“It’s not going to be a game changer, but it’ll help in some small way to make food a little more affordable for families.”

Pierucci also expressed appreciation at the process with residents coming forward with an idea, it going through city staff, planning commission and elected officials. 

“There has been a really thoughtful discussion on an issue that may seem to be inconsequential or insignificant to some, but to those that care about it, it’s important,” he said. “It gives people confidence in our city government.” λ