The Ashland City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed changes that would allow more people to keep chickens, install solar panels, use rain barrels and put up tall fences to protect their gardens from deer.

The Ashland City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed changes that would allow more people to keep chickens, install solar panels, use rain barrels and put up tall fences to protect their gardens from deer.

The hearing will be held during the City Council's regular meeting that starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

The proposed changes to Ashland's planning rules are meant to support people's efforts to grow their own food and reduce energy and water use, according to documents on the changes prepared by city staff members for City Council and public review.

Under current rules, chickens must be kept at least 75 feet away from a neighboring home. Given typical lot sizes in Ashland, that one requirement bars the majority of residents from raising chickens, city staff said.

Proposed changes would allow chicken coops and runs to be built within 20 feet of a neighbor's home.

A person could keep up to five hens, with no roosters allowed. The chickens would have to be for personal, not commercial, use. The birds would have to stay in a chicken run or fenced yard by day and a coop by night.

Chicken feed would have to be kept in rodent and racoon-proof containers and a person could store no more than 20 gallons of chicken manure. People could use manure for composting and fertilizer.

City staff members had proposed that chicken slaughtering not be allowed outdoors, but the Planning Commission has recommended that outdoor slaughtering be allowed.

Under other changes, restrictions on solar panels would be loosened so that flat panels could be installed on business roofs in historic districts without owners having to get planning approval.

Historic districts cover most of Ashland except for areas high above Siskiyou Boulevard and downhill from the railroad tracks, according to city maps.

Other changes would allow people to install rain barrels within side yard and backyard setbacks. Setbacks are required buffer areas between adjoining properties. Currently barrels are classified as structures that are subject to setback rules.

Roof eaves that can extend only 18 inches over property could extend out 3 feet — providing more shading to homes and reducing air conditioner use.

As for Ashland's urban deer population that likes to munch on gardens and landscaping, they could face deer fences up to 8 feet tall under proposed changes.

Front yard fences are currently limited to 31/2; feet, while backyards can have fences up to 61/2; feet tall.

People would have to use see-through fencing such as mesh or wire when they add height to create deer fences. Chain-link fencing would not be allowed.

Despite Ashland's fence height limitations, many homeowners already have tall deer fences.

In documents, city staff members said deer can readily jump over fences built to current height standards.

In other business Tuesday night, the City Council is scheduled to consider:

Accepting a grant of more than $200,000 from The Nature Conservancy that would pay for wildfire fuels reduction on city-owned forestland, parkland and private land of willing property owners; Adopting a resolution urging Congress to approve an amendment to the Constitution giving Congress and the states authority to set limits on campaign contributions and political spending; Paying a consulting firm up to $9,826 to see if further garbage rate increases are justified.

San Francisco-headquartered Recology Ashland Sanitary Service had sought a 23.3 percent rate increase, but the City Council only authorized an initial average 11.2 percent rate increase that went into effect in January.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=14640.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.