Edgerton chicken debate coming back to roost

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Thursday, May 24, 2012
— While Edgerton Mayor Chris Lund says he'd like the city to kill the idea of backyard chickens in residential areas of the city, one alderman and a resident say they're not finished crowing over the issue.

The city's planning commission forwarded a set of minor ordinance changes at a public hearing Wednesday that would allow people to have a small number of backyard chickens in agriculturally zoned parts of the city.

Now the city has agricultural zoning rules for larger-scale farming only, officials said.

City Administrator Ramona Flanigan told The Gazette the move was part of a larger city plan that could effectively bar backyard chickens from residential sections of the city.

Officials learned in 2010 that the city has a patchwork of conflicting ordinances on backyard chickens. At the time, some residents requested permits to keep a small number of the animals as pets and for fresh eggs.

At the time, the city council was divided over whether to recommend that the planning commission consider a zoning change that would allow chickens in residential areas. Mayor Chris Lund broke the tie with a vote against sending the issue forward.

At the time, Lund said a straw poll by city officials showed a majority of residents opposed backyard chickens.

Lund's vote didn't kill the issue. Under city rules, any city resident can request a zoning change and prompt a public hearing in front of the plan commission.

Flanigan said in two years no one has filed for a zoning change for chickens. She said Lund suggested recently that it was time for the city to shore up its chicken rules.

She told The Gazette that staff plans to present the council in July with ordinances that could:

-- Remove old language in city code that describes a permit application process for backyard chickens.

-- Specifically bar people from having chickens in residential sections of the city. New rules would spell out that chickens are only allowed in areas zoned agricultural. Most of those areas are in outlying areas of the city.

Lund told The Gazette those changes would be fine with him. He said many residential areas in Edgerton have neighbors crowded together, and he's concerned about the potential mess and smell of backyard chickens.

Yet plans to keep chickens at the fringes of the city might not be so cut-and-dried.

Edgerton resident and backyard chicken supporter Andy Wellnitz, who was at the public hearing Wednesday, told The Gazette that he plans to petition this week for a zoning change to allow backyard chickens. That would prompt a public hearing.

Mark Wellnitz, who is Andy Wellnitz's brother and a member of the city council, said the chicken issue "is not dead."

Mark Wellnitz said he supports backyard chickens, and he would not support an ordinance limiting chickens to agricultural zoned areas.

"I support it, although it would need strict regulation," Wellnitz said. "You wouldn't want roosters or 100 chickens in somebody's backyard."

Last updated: 8:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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