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Chicken ordinance forwarded to council

Proposed ordinance would prohibit roosters but allow up to five hens.

New London may allow chickens within city limits

By Robert Cloud

A proposed ordinance to permit chickens in back yards in New London has moved forward.

The city’s Planning Commission discussed the ordinance when it met Thursday, Aug. 24,

Building Inspector David Vincent and City Administrator Chad Hoerth presented a first draft of the ordinance.

Hoerth said two of the issues considered at prior commission meetings were the number of chickens to allow and what classifications of property where they would be permitted.

Vincent said he used Menasha’s chicken ordinance as a template, which allows up to six chickens.

“Other pet ordinances set a limit of three animals,” Mayor Mark Herter said.

However, because local vendors sell chicks in groups of four, a limit of three would create problems.

“You don’t want to create an ordinance that you know they can’t follow,” Ald. Dave Dorsey said.

Commission members spent a significant amount of time going over the details of whether residents of duplexes could obtain permits for raising chickens.

Vincent said tenants in duplexes would have a difficult time trying to meet the requirement that chicken coops be at least 20 feet away from any neighboring habitable building.

Commission member Susie Steingraber raised concerns about tenants leaving behind a messy coop when they move.

Herter said that cleaning up the property would be the landlord’s responsibility.

“What about it saying ‘owner-occupied?’” Ald. BaLynda Croy asked.

“If they can meet the ordinance and be away from buildings they way they need to be, who are we to tell a family living in an apartment or a duplex that they can’t have chickens because they don’t own their home?” Dorsey said.

Ald. Charlene Magolski asked if a permit would remain with the property if the people who obtained it moved away.

Noting that there were still details to work out, Vincent said permits normally go with the property, however, dog licensing is usually based on the resident rather than the parcel.

Commission member Jeff Handschke noted further concerns with allowing one tenant to have a chicken permit, which the other tenant did not want.

“People living together in a side-by-side have enough problems with their personalities and their other pets getting along,” Handschke said. “Would we need written permission from both renters to say, ‘I don’t care if the other one has chickens or not?’ What if one gets chickens and the other one doesn’t like it and they’re both paying the same rent?”

Hoerth described a hypothetical situation where one family in a duplex gets chickens and the second family agrees to it, then someone else moves in and does not want the chickens any more.

“Then that’s their choice not to move in,” Handschke said.

“If I move into a duplex, I wouldn’t say, ‘The neighbors got to sell their dog,’” commission member Jamie Walbruck said.

“The landlords can say they don’t want it,” Herter said. “They don’t have to allow chickens.”

Walbruck asked about the size requirements for chicken coops.

According to the proposed ordinance, “Coops shall be large enough to provide at least three (3) square feet per chicken. Coops and chicken runs shall have an aggregate maximum of sixty-four (64) square feet and the height of the coop shall not exceed seven (7) linear feet as measured from the ground.”

“Do we currently have rules about the size of a dog house?” Walbruck asked.

“Not as far as I know,” Vincent replied, noting the dimensions of the coop would be part of a site plan that would accompany a permit application.

Ald. Bernie Ritchie suggested the city hold a referendum to discern what the public wants.

Dorsey responded that the reason they were elected to office was to make these types of decisions.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits the slaughtering of chickens unless it is for personal consumption.

Hoerth compared slaughtering four chickens to local hunters butchering deer.

Herter said residents who have chickens will probably buy chicks in the spring and slaughter them in the fall.

The commission referred the proposed ordinance to the city council by a vote of 6-4.

Voting in favor of recommending the ordinance were Herter, Handschke, Walbruck, Dorsey, Bob Besaw and John Hass.

Voting against it were Steingraber, Croy, Ritchie and Magolski.

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