Berkley continues to make changes to proposed chicken ordinance

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 24, 2017

 The Berkley City Council continued to make changes to its proposed chicken ordinance at its May 16 meeting.

The Berkley City Council continued to make changes to its proposed chicken ordinance at its May 16 meeting.

Photo provided by Bob Perye

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BERKLEY — An ordinance that would allow Berkley residents to have chickens on their properties had more discussion at the City Council’s May 16 meeting.

Since the last work session on the ordinance in April, city staff made several changes to the document that would allow a resident to keep up to three chickens on their property as pets during a pilot program that would last up to 12 months.

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten said the most important change made to the proposed ordinance was one that would limit the number of permits allowed in the city during the pilot program to five.

“This is in line with the pilot project that we had spoken about after the previous work session that we had,” he said. “It would be limited to five permits for the first 12 months, requiring two inspections of a permit holder’s operations, whether it includes the coop, how they are storing the foods, making sure that this is not a use that lends itself to vermin or predators or anything that we’ve been so concerned about moving forward.”

Baumgarten also noted that keeping three chickens would not preclude a homeowner from having two other animals inside the home; permits would be first come, first served; a single violation would be a finable offense; and the second violation would bring about revocation of the permit.

A topic of conversation from the April work session was the type of wiring that would be required on the coop. It was clarified that the wire mesh could be no bigger than a quarter of an inch.

“It was suggested that chicken wire does not keep out rodents or, specifically, rats and mice,” Baumgarten said. “We did make a change to wire mesh in there. We didn’t specify a type of gauge, but we can certainly look at that as we go through the enforcement process if we need to make an amendment based on best practices. Again, trying to, above all things, make sure this is not something that lends itself to other issues — specifically, rodent infestation.”

While she was not leaning one way or the other on the ordinance, resident Lisa Kempner told the council that she thought it would be wise to keep a list of any violations in one place.

“Maybe figure out a way to take all chicken complaints and make sure they all end up in one place,” she said. “Then, when it comes back a year from now, you can go, ‘Were there any complaints? Well, here’s our chicken database.’”

The council decided to hold off on having a vote on the ordinance for another month to make more changes, including adding a provision that at the end of the 12 months, the ordinance must come back before the council for analysis and review of complaints. Also, there are plans to add a user guide for people applying to have a coop that gives clear marching orders on how to be a chicken owner in Berkley.

“I would be much more comfortable knowing that this is going to have to come back before it just passes on, before it just becomes an ordinance and no longer a pilot program,” Councilman Dan Terbrack said. “If it doesn’t work and we get a number of complaints, I don’t want to have to continue with the next 12 months either. We just shut it down, and that’s it.”

“I think these are important considerations,” Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said. “There needs to be some sort of a report and re-evaluation to see what happened over at the end of the year, and that the list of complaints that have been generated, we need to hear what they are and see if they are sufficiently onerous as to end this whole permit.”

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