Chickens clear first hurdle

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff __________________________________________

PLYMOUTH – With several modifications, the Plan Commission approved the first step to allowing chickens in the city limits.

The commission approved an ordinance Thursday setting zoning requirements for keeping up to five chickens in the city by a vote of 5-2, with commission members Jim Faller and Donald Pohlman voting no.

That ordinance, along with one establishing a license procedure for chickens, will be acted on by the City Council at their meeting tonight.

The changes made by the commission included:

. Chickens must be kept within an enclosed pen no larger than 50 square feet at all times.

. The hen house must have a structural, not dirt, floor.

. The fence around the chicken pen must be secured to the ground with burrow-resistant construction.

. The chicken pen must be enclosed with a protective fence as defined by the city’s fence ordinance.

. The chicken enclosure must be at least 40 feet from any neighboring residence.

The last figure was a compromise between the 25 feet originally in the proposed ordinance and 50 feet proposed by commission member Bill Barbieur.

“That could fit most city lots,” Barbieur said of the 50-foot setback. He said he had examined aerial maps of the city and didn’t find many lots where the larger setback would be a problem.

Commission member Pete Rammer wondered whether the tighter setback would effectively prohibit chickens on older lots and urged keeping the setback at 25 feet.

Pohlman countered that the setback could be 50 feet but closer setbacks could be allowed with a variance.

“There’s an expense to go through the variance process,” Director of City Services Brian Yerges said, pointing out that there would already be a $55 permit fee for an accessory building for anyone wanting to put up a chicken coop, along with the license cost, which has not been set yet.

The commission members agreed to compromise on 40 feet.

Commission member Jim Flanagan pointed out that the proposed ordinance would allow chickens to roam free in an owner’s yard under supervision.

He questioned whether that would be desirable, leading to the change that chickens must be kept within the 50-square-foot pen.

Flanagan also requested the changes in type and construction of chicken pen fences, and that hen house floors be of a structural material and not just dirt.

Faller stated his continued opposition to keeping chickens in the city, noting that he had received no comment to date in favor of the proposal.

He also raised the point of the cost of enforcing the chicken rules, as did an audience member.

But Barbieur replied that the fi- nal decision on the issue is up to the council and that the commission was only being asked for a recommendation on one of the ordinances that would make keeping chickens possible.

“My personal preference has nothing to do with this,” Barbieur stated. “What we have to do is set the regulations we feel will work if the council wants to allow this.”

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