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Planning Commission still considering chicken ordinance

New London is considering an ordinance to allow residents to keep a small number of chickens in their backyards. File Photo

New London debates issue

By Robert Cloud

Zoning Administrator David Vincent will move forward on producing a rough draft for a chicken ordinance in New London.

He proposed an ordinance to allow chickens on property within city limits at a July 27 meeting of the Planning Commission.

“We’ve been talking about this chicken ordinance for a while,” Vincent said, adding that he reached out to other communities that already have chicken ordinances.
“I talked with the chief of police for Clintonville. He said they have had no problems whatsoever.”

Clintonville passed an ordinance to allow residents to keep chickens in the city in July 2014.

Vincent distributed a copy of Menasha’s chicken ordinance to members of the New London Planning Commission prior to the July 27 meeting.

He said Menasha city staff have heard no complaints regarding chickens since their ordinance passed.

Need for ordinance questioned

“I have a question as to where this is coming from,” commissioner Susie Steingraber said. “Is it something that we already have and that we want to control what we already have or is this something that we feel we need to have because you’re getting requests for it?”

“We are getting quite a few requests,” Vincent replied. “It is a trend that seems to be kind of taking over this area. Most of the outlying villages and stuff are adopting some type of chicken ordinance.”

Vincent said chicken ordinances vary, with some municipalities setting limits on the number of chickens, prohibiting roosts and requiring minimum setbacks from property lines.

“We’ve got them in the neighborhoods now,” he said. “I know of at least five or six places that either have had them or do have chickens.”

“I’ve had four different families just from my district contact me,” Ald. BaLynda Croy said “They are not in favor of having chickens next door. They’re noisy, stinky, their feathers, everything goes everywhere.”

“Three chickens in a back lawn in a chicken house aren’t going to be smelly,” commissioner Jeff Handschke said. “I think those people are thinking about farms where there are a couple hundred, couple thousand (chickens). As far as noise, you’re going to have a lot more barking dog complaints than you are clucking chicken complaints. Chickens are very, very quiet unless you have roosters.”

If the city decides against allowing city residents to have chickens, Vincent said he would be ready to enforce the ordinance, although he expressed some reluctance.

“I’ve got enough on my plate without being a chicken sheriff,” he said.

Steingraber suggested the commission revisit the ordinance in six months.

“I think we need to act on this,” Mayor Mark Herter said. “This is going on our second summer of discussing it.”

Origins of ordinance

City Administrator Chad Hoerth explained the history of New London’s ordinances regarding chickens within city limits.

He said the city interpreted the municipal code to allow up to two chickens on parcels within the city.

However, a new city attorney reviewed the ordinance and found that it only applied to parcels that were zoned agricultural.

Vincent said New London’s chicken ordinance could have restrictions that a chicken house be located at least 20 feet away from the property line. The 20-foot setback would allow most property owners in the city to have chicken houses because the average lot size is 60-feet by 120-feet.

Commissioners voted 6-5 in favor of Vincent moving forward and preparing a rough draft of an ordinance allowing chickens within city limits to be ready by the following meeting.

Voting in favor of moving forward were Jamie Walbruck, Jay Bessette, Dave Dorsey, Tim Roberts, Handschke and Herter.

Voting no were Croy, Bernie Ritchie, Susie Steingraber, Dona Gabert and Charlene Magolski.

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