McLaughlin said there was no evidence of potential hazards of disease or other problems that could arise from keeping hens in closer quarters, but she said "we were trying to ease into it."

Suzanne Lancelotta, a real estate agent with Masters Realty in Clarksville, said she believes not everyone will accept the change in the lot size.

Lancelotta, who grew up in Ellicott City, said she personally supports backyard chicken farming and the health benefits of fresh eggs. She noted that her son raises chickens and keeps a spotless operation. "But he's on five acres," she said. "Not everybody can keep a nice coop."

She doesn't believe the change would adversely affect property values across Howard County because it's considered a desirable locale. But she said noise and the possibility of luring predators could discourage some potential buyers.

"I think it would have a definite impact in a negative way on resale [of a house] for a neighbor," she said. "I just think a quarter-acre is too small."

Hudson — who plans to give a presentation on chicken keeping at GreenFest at Howard Community College on Saturday — testified to support backyard chickens at a Planning Board public hearing this week. She argues that the rules are still too restrictive.

"I'd hope to have townhouses allow them," said Hudson, who also takes issue with the total ban on roosters, regardless of the property size above 10,000 square feet. As loud as roosters can be in the morning, she said, they should be permitted if the owner has at least an acre.

Lalush said it's not likely the 10,000 square foot minimum would be adjusted for this round of zoning revisions, but he said that "doesn't mean we won't potentially go there in the future.

"We want to see how this proposal, for lack of a better term, flies."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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