LEWISTON — Chickens could be welcome in city residential lots larger than half an acre, if their owners get a one-time $40 permit, councilors said Tuesday.

Councilors grappled with easing city rules related to letting residents keep hens at a workshop meeting, a prelude to a potential vote later this summer.

City Planner Dave Hediger said councilors didn’t give him enough information in May when they asked to have the matter brought back for a workshop.

On Tuesday, councilors gave him a rough outline for new rules allowing the birds in the city.

“My concerns are more about enforcement and the direction we are taking the city where we limited resources even for housing inspections,” Councilor Jim Lysen said. “I’m concerned about overregulating it.”

Residents living on lots of three acres or more in the rural agriculture zone can keep chickens. Chickens are not allowed elsewhere.

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Shelly Suzuki of 16 Champlain Ave. started a citizen petition to allow families to keep up to six egg-laying hens on any 20,000-square-foot lot — just less than half an acre — that contains a single-family dwelling, including a mobile home.

Suzuki collected 25 signatures to get the matter before the City Council.

Four councilors — Lysen, Ward 3’s Isobel Golden, Ward 5’s Kristen Cloutier and Ward 6’s Joline Beam — said a 20,000-square-foot lot was too small and said they opted for a 30,000-square-foot limit. They also opted in favor of a minimum distance of 20 feet between chicken coops and property lines.

Councilors Shane Bouchard and Mike Lachance said they were fine with allowing residents have chickens on 20,000-square-foot lots.

All the councilors but Lysen backed requiring owners get a $40 permit before obtaining their birds. Lysen said he was concerned about creating too much regulation. He favored more strict rules, but less city review.

“I think we are going down a path of creating something to make this OK for the community and loading up regulations and enforcement,” he said. “This is a situation where we’ve had self-regulation before and it seems to have worked.”

Planning and Code Enforcement Director Gil Arsenault said staff will bring an ordinance change back to councilors for a first reading later this summer. After one vote, it will go to the Planning Board for a vote before coming back to the City Council for final approval.

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