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Charles City Council declines to hatch new chicken ordinance

Charles City Council declines to hatch new chicken ordinance
Backyard chickens are becoming more common in some communities, for their eggs and other reasons. ISU Extension and Outreach photo
By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Council likely won’t be opening up the city to residential chickens after considering the drawbacks of creating a new city ordinance at the group’s workshop meeting on Wednesday, March 15.

At a previous meeting, Tyler and Ashley Robbins approached the council with a request that members consider changing the city’s ordinance against keeping chickens within the city limits. Several communities in Iowa in recent years have adjusted their ordinances to allow raising chickens and the Robbins said they would like to have some of their own for their children to raise.

Mayor Dean Andrews asked that city officials look at what would be appropriate for an ordinance for Charles City so that the council could revisit the issue.

Given a couple of weeks to consider the matter and collect feedback themselves, the council members brought up a number of concerns about opening up Charles City to any amount of livestock.

Council member Patrick Lumley pointed out that an ordinance to allow chickens would require law enforcement resources to ensure that regulations are being upheld.

“All of a sudden we have chickens that are outside of the pen or on the loose,” said Lumley. “At this point, I would not be in favor of it.”

Council member Phillip Knighten felt similarly, not inherently opposed to the idea of allowing chickens to reside in Charles City, but recognizing the city’s own limitations on enforcement.

“I like the idea of it, but I don’t know that we would have enough manpower to enforce it,” said Knighten. “Without enforcing it, it would quickly become a nuisance.”

The major nuisance concern of allowing chickens in town is the potential for unpleasant smells, which even for the most responsible of owners could present a problem for neighbors.

“My main concern with this has always been the smell,” said council member Delaine Freeseman. “There’s no way to keep chicken manure from smelling.”

For council member Keith Starr, who was present on the council the last time this issue came up, the discussion treaded old ground.

“I think the arguments are virtually the same that came forward during that period,” said Starr. “I don’t know that there’s been any significant changes that would make me reconsider what we did back them.”

Starr also raised a concern about local flocks potentially becoming a vector for avian viruses, which could result in dramatic consequences for local large poultry producers.

Outside of the council, Connie Parson of Parson Real Estate Co., was present at the meeting to express her concerns about the prospect of allowing livestock in the city. Along with reiterating the issue of code enforcement, Parson explained that untended roosts create problems for both the home properties and their neighbors, which ultimately impacts her work.

“My main concern is about real estate values,” said Parson. “Farm animals belong out on the farm, not in town.”

With the consensus being that opening up Charles City to chickens would be an unmanageable option, the matter will instead remain limited to the council issuing variances on a case-by-case basis. That in itself could be contentious among the council, but would allow them to make exceptions in the far edges of town where there would be fewer concerns.

“It’s still a pain if you have to address one each individually, but it does give the council some latitude,” said Freeseman.

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