Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

The Sonora City Council on Monday unanimously adopted an ordinance allowing people to raise chickens and other farm animals on residential land.

The ordinance, which applies to people living within the city limits, will go into effect 30 days from Monday.

The council at its Dec. 3 meeting waived the first reading of the ordinance and approved an amendment to the Sonora General Plan - the city's main land-use blueprint. The amendment revises existing language in the General Plan to maintain consistency with the new ordinance.

The livestock ordinance, approved by the Planning Commission on Sept. 10, specifies the number and type of animals that can be kept depending on a property's size.

The Planning Commission developed the density standards by reviewing similar ordinances in other rural cities across the state.

A maximum of three small, non-hoofed animals such as chickens and rabbits can be kept on parcels of land less than a half-acre in size. The number of small, non-hoofed animals increases to six for parcels from a half-acre to 0.74 acre and nine for 0.75 to 0.99 acre.

All parcels one acre or larger can have one large, hoofed animal per acre or two small, hoofed animals per acre. Additionally, the parcel could have up to 24 small non-hoofed animals.

Small, non-hoofed animals include poultry and rabbits; small, hoofed animals include sheep and goats; and large, hoofed animals include any domesticated hoofed animals other than sheep and goats.

Keeping of roosters, ducks, pigeons, guinea fowl, geese, peacocks, peahens, guineas, chukars, grouse and large fowl such as ostriches and emus remains prohibited.

The ordinance also outlines the standards for public health and safety, and the housing and slaughtering of animals.

Livestock must be raised outdoors in a "clean and sanitary manner," and confined within the owner's property.

Setbacks for stalls, barns, sheds, corrals and other livestock keeping structures is required to be a minimum of 25 feet from the property line.

Slaughtering is permitted only for non-hoofed animals and must be conducted indoors. Any meat produced cannot be used or sold for commercial purposes. Eggs can be sold, but only from the parcel where they are produced.

The Planning Commission determined that the ordinance is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act because it does not pose a significant threat to the environment due to its extensive limitations, according to meeting documents.

The issue of chicken-keeping was first discussed at a Planning Commission meeting in October 2011 after the city received several requests from residents.

The Sonora Police Department has received calls about livestock being kept in apartment buildings, but had difficulty taking action due to conflicting regulations in the city's municipal code.

Community Development Director Rachelle Kellogg said at the Dec. 3 meeting that city and law enforcement officials will not patrol for offenders of the ordinance, but will investigate situations on a complaint-driven basis.

In other business Monday, the City Council:

Heard a presentation by Darin Grossi, executive director of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council on "Tuolumne Tomorrow," which is a blueprint projecting county growth. The Transportation Council hopes the blueprint will provide guidance in future updates to the Tuolumne County General Plan, Regional Transportation Plan and other documents. The county Board of Supervisors accepted the document in a 3-2 vote at an August meeting. The City Council was provided the opportunity to calendar the item on a future agenda if it wanted to accept the report or provide direction, but it chose to take no action.

Unanimously adopted the city's Traffic Impact Mitigation Fund Report for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which included the Old Wards Ferry Road realignment and Mono Way widening. The city began the fiscal year with nearly $725,500 and ended with about $685,000 after the projects.

Held a public hearing for citizens to comment on progress made under a grant for the city's Homebuyers' Assistance Loan Program. Kellogg said the city received about $400,000 in March 2010 and has since funded six loans. The grant was one of seven for the loan program, which has funded a total of 65 loans since it formed in 1998. Of the loans, 24 have been paid off, she said. No members of the public commented on the grant, which expires Dec. 31.

Did not approve the appropriation of additional travel and training funds for new council members to attend the League of California Cities conference in Sacramento in January. The City Council's travel and training budget is $300, but the cost of attending the event is $1,000, according to meeting documents. The documents said there is sufficient surplus in other city accounts to cover the expense, but the City Council decided the conference would not be worth the cost.

Adopted an administrative policy proposed by the Finance Committee regarding the invoice and demand register approval process. The Finance Committee recommended the approval of invoices remain on the consent calendar; city staff prepare a policy for City Council consideration and adoption that establishes invoice approval, check issuance and check register approval processes; and the finance director make the check register available to the public and council members on the afternoon of the City Council meeting at which it is to be approved.