Fenton Council Could Decide to Allow Chickens Monday
Number of birds would be three hens; annual permit would be needed and fines possible for violating ordinance.
On Monday, Fenton City Council could decide to allow the keeping of chickens, via an annual permit for those who meet requirements. But the number of chickens council members are considering isn't enough to provide eggs for a family of five, says resident Malissa Bossardet, who has been fighting to keep her chickens for several months.
She's striving for a more sustainable lifestyle, Bossardet said. And the three chickens the city would allow isn't enough to provide for three children in a family of five people.
The proposal would require chicken owners to obtain an annual permit from the city, said Fenton city attorney Stephen Schultz.
The main question remaining for city council to answer is the number of chickens allowed, Schultz said.
Council discussed it at their work session on Monday, and most council members said they would support three as the number of chickens to allow. Councilman Ben Smith said he is against the keeping of any chickens in the city. The federal Centers for Disease Control states that households with children under 5 should not have chickens.
"To me, that says you have trouble brewing," Smith said.
Councilman Brad Jacob said, in his opinion, prohibiting something is the utmost intervention government has, and he supports allowing people to keep a few more than three chickens.
Neighbors could be upset if people had six to 12 chickens in the back yard, Mayor Sue Osborn said.
Three is a good number of chickens, Councilwoman Pat Lockwood believes. This could be changed in years to come, if it doesn't work out, she said.
"Let's start somewhere," said Councilman Les Bland.
Regarding those who want to keep chickens in Fenton, Osborn said, "I've had people say to me, 'Let them move to the townships.'"
Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl King said she's said the same thing. When Fenton was a village, it didn't have the population it does now. King would not vote for chicken keeping if it allowed more than three of the birds, she said.
Although the legal term for enforcing chicken keeping would be police power, it would be enforced by the city's zoning department, not the police, said Schultz. This would be different from enforcing it as a zoning issue.
With police power, chicken keeping doesn't become a right for those who already have chickens, if city council later decides not to allow chickens, he said. Those with permits for their chickens would not have the right to keep them anymore despite investments they made in building coops and buying the chickens.
He proposes treating violations as civil infractions, Schultz said.
Fines for violating the regulations would be $125 for the first day, $250 for the second day, $500 for the third and $500 for each day after the third day, said Building and Zoning Administrator Brad Hissong.
Lockwood said she supports having as strong of an ordinance as possible for chicken keeping, since it's new territory for the city.
"I hope it works well for everyone who wants to have chickens," she said.
If it doesn't work out, people who have chickens won't be "grandfathered in," Lockwood added.
In addition, Bland favors the fines in the policing ordinance for those who don't do as they are supposed to, he said. Chicken keepers have to take care of the coop.
For those who don't comply with the police power ordinance, there is a process for civil infractions, Schultz said. Before the city can revoke a permit, there must be a due process with the Building and Zoning Department.
Bossardet said she is concerned about more government in her personal life, compared to less government.
"I would like to see less government instead of more," she said after the council meeting.
The proposed ordinance
* Hens only, no roosters
* No chicken slaughtering
* Chicken owners must live in detached, single-family homes, in single-family residential districts.
* Fully enclosed coop and fenced enclosure
* At least four square feet per chicken in the coop
* Fully enclosed coop, except for the opening leading to the fenced area (if one is included)
* Clean, dry, odor-free
* The coop can't be in any side or front yard and must be at least 25 feet from neighboring homes or 10 feet from property lines.
* A permit must be obtained every year from the city to ensure the chicken owner complies with the ordinance.
* The city ordinance allowing chickens doesn't outweigh any private restrictions, such as deed restrictions, condominium master deed restrictions, neighborhood association by-laws and covenant deeds that prohibit chickens on a property.