FarmingtonJune 27, 2012
Council leaves chicken ban in place
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Residents are not allowed to keep chickens in the city after the City Council elected not to pass an ordinance amendment that would have established rules allowing chickens as pets.
Last spring, the City Council passed a new animal ordinance that more clearly defined which animals are allowed and which are prohibited. That ordinance defined chickens as livestock, and the measure bans all livestock.
But some residents were already keeping chickens, so the city looked at an amendment to the new ordinance to allow chickens under certain circumstances. The council and Planning Commission spent many meetings talking about the issue and revising the terms of the proposed ordinance amendment.
“I know you’re weary of this issue. I’m looking forward, win or lose, to a final resolution, but I want to commend the council and the Planning Commission for being very fair in this process and taking time to hear all the objections,” said resident Michael Weddell, whose family keeps hens as pets, just prior to council’s vote.
The ultimately unsuccessful ordinance amendment would have set certain distances governing where residents could keep chickens on their properties. The setbacks were revised multiple times, because Farmington’s many small lots would not have met the setbacks.
The final revision was voted on after Councilwoman JoAnne McShane’s motion to pass the chicken ordinance with a requirement that chickens be kept at least 20 feet from neighboring buildings, a decrease from 50 feet. She also asked to strike any setbacks from the chicken owner’s home, meaning owners could keep a coop next to the home.
Mayor Tom Buck supported the motion, but Mayor Pro Tem Bill Galvin, and council members Greg Cowley and Kristin Kuiken voted against it. McShane said she regrets voting for the animal ordinance in the spring.
“Had I even known about that, (that) we were not going to look at all at an ordinance for chickens, or just make something that would not help anyone in the city to have chickens, I wouldn’t have even gone this far,” said McShane.
Weddell said before the vote that the amendment would not set a precedent allowing other untraditional pets. He said that owners would keep their chickens in a way that would not attract pests, and though chickens are untraditional, he said that shouldn’t be a reason to ban them.
“If something’s not a nuisance, it’s not harming somebody else, I think we need a stronger objection than to say it’s nontraditional in order to have a restrictive ordinance,” said Weddell.
During public comment before the agenda item, resident Pat Kanny expressed concerns about predators preying upon chickens.
“If people are going to have these animals, all I can say is, and I’ve said it before, take care of them and treat them properly. That’s all I can say,” said Kanny.
Resident Deborah Goldberg said that years ago, she lived near a person who kept chickens in the Eight Mile and Livernois area.
“And they made more of a mess with seeds and feed and feathers, and nobody made them clean it up. So I’d say if you’re going to do something with chickens, you better make sure that we have somebody checking on how clean they are, because the rats are going to be fun,” said Goldberg.
That was one of Cowley’s concerns.
“I would ask my fellow council people, while you debate yardage, feet, feathers, who’s going to police all this?” said Cowley.
City Manager Vince Pastue said that the city would respond if it received complaints, but it would not actively keep tabs on pet chickens.
Kuiken had expressed concerns that a list of other cities’ chicken provisions involved much larger setbacks, and she said that her own experiences in real estate involved chickens on much larger and more rural properties.
“Just looking at the matrix of different communities, typically, you’re seeing larger parcels requiring multiple acres or significant, 100-plus (feet) setbacks,” said Kuiken.
She also worried about having to rule on allowances for other animals, and the predators that chickens might attract.
At a previous meeting, Pastue explained that if the ordinance failed, people who already have chickens can keep them, but they can’t replace the birds when they die.
No one made any further motions after the vote against McShane’s motion.
“I think the (animal) ordinance as it sits is fine,” said Cowley.
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