Chickens in Golden Valley….Yes or No?
By Andrew Richter
An article in the Sun Post about a possible chicken ordinance in Golden Valley makes it seem likely that chickens will be “allowed” although there seems to be many unanswered questions;
Chickens are back on the radar in Golden Valley. At a March 12 work session, the Golden Valley City Council spent 90 minutes reviewing and discussing the Environmental Commission’s recommendation that the city amend its ordinance to allow the keeping of chickens on residential property. The narrow 4-3 commission vote capped a 10-month study of the issue.
“We had a mixed vote on whether to support this,” said Rich Baker, chairman of the Environmental Commission. “We had a diversity of opinion. We ourselves ended up feeling very conflicted about this issue. We all saw very clearly the pros and cons. My job is not to sell you on this. We came out of it very equivocally. We don’t embrace this.”
Well, that’s an interesting approach…..you recommend allowing people to keep chickens yet you’re not going to “sell this” nor do you “embrace it.” I wonder how you voted Mr. Baker?
Baker said the commission received numerous email comments on both sides of the issue. “Where do you want the city to be?” Baker said. “You are elected to make those hard choices.” Citing an estimated yearly total of 96 hours of staff time that would be required to monitor the keeping of chickens, Baker said, “Staff was quite lukewarm, if not dead-set opposed to it.”
In addition to staff time required, Baker said other points against allowing chickens include the challenge of enforcing the ordinance. However, he added, “There’s the issue of property rights. It would be difficult to flat-out prohibit what people want to do on their own land, if it doesn’t impose on others.”
Yes!!! Private property rights!!!!
Of course that all sounds good but then come the strings;
The commission’s recommendation includes a stringent set of recommended requirements, including the requirement for a single-family property that wants to keep chickens to obtain an annual permit. No more than four chickens would be permitted, and the keeping of roosters would be strictly prohibited. Butchering of chickens and the use of chickens for cockfighting also would be prohibited.
All chickens would have to be provided access to a winterized coop, in addition to a run, and any chicken coop or run would have to be set back at least 50 feet from the principal dwelling. Perhaps the most controversial recommendation was that the keeping of chickens within 500 feet of an impaired body of water would be strictly prohibited.
Now here’s the rub; you can have chickens if you follow 900,000 rules. 50 feet from your dwelling and 500 foot from an “impaired body of water.” Why the need for an annual permit? And what do you want to be bet there will be annual fees involved as well?
“I very much question that,” said Councilmember Paula Pentel, who labeled it “very nanny-state-ish.” “To write an ordinance that so few people can participate in doesn’t pass the smell test,” Pentel said “Either we think raising chickens is oaky, or we don’t. To say they have to be 500 feet from a water body seems absolutely arbitrary.” Pentel pointed out that Golden Valley residents are allowed to keep three dogs and three cats with no restriction about keeping them away from impaired water.
“Impaired water injected in here is a red herring,” Pentel said. “It’s being used as a way to restrict the number of homes that could have chickens. No other community has a setback from impaired waters. If we don’t want people to have chickens, let’s vote not to allow them. If we are going to allow chickens, we need to make the ordinance logically reasonable.”
Go Paula go!
Councilmember Steve Schmidgall said he is in favor of people being able to have chickens if they want to. “Some people just plain want to be able to have chickens,” Schmidgall said. However, he pointed out that Bassett Creek, and Sweeny and Wirth Lakes all have been labeled impaired bodies of water. “I am shocked that we have so many impaired waters,” Schmidgall said. “There is hardly any unimpaired water. All the water around here is impaired. A 1,000-foot swath of Bassett Creek goes through our city.”
Labeled by whom???
The Environmental Commission’s study included discussions with people opposed to and in favor of chicken-keeping, as well as people who manage and enforce animal ordinances, a review of local ordinances, discussions with real estate agents, a session with Golden Valley city staff and talks with people who manage wildlife. As part of its study, Baker said, the commission examined similar ordinances from many other cities.
“We didn’t want to make it a really easy thing to do,” Baker said. “We wanted to be restrictive about it. It shouldn’t be something anyone anywhere could do.”
What? So some people can and some can’t? Don’t want to make it easy? Well then what is the point?
But as the commission considered parameters of such things as lot size, setback and configuration in relation to where a coop could be placed, he said it became apparent that more affluent people would be more likely to be able to keep chickens. “That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Baker said.
The council did not vote on the issue last week, opting instead to continue its discussion at an upcoming work session. It referred the suggested ordinance changes to city staff for further refinement.
But some council members continued to have concerns.
Councilmember Joanie Clausen, who said she would have trouble supporting an ordinance allowing the raising of chickens, said that if the ordinance is approved she would like it to be “as strict as possible.” “Adding chickens is opening a can of worms,” Clausen said. “I have a little hard time with property rights. I do not want a coop under my bedroom window. Where do you draw the line? It’s about fairness. You can have chickens, but not pigeons, goats or a pot-bellied pig.
Oh come on!! You have a hard time with property rights??? Who is going to put a coop under your bedroom window?
“We are not an agricultural city. Where do we start, and where do we end up? When are the cows coming? This would pit neighbor against neighbor. You have to be respectful of your neighbor.” Replied Baker, “Golden Valley is not a city where anything goes. We don’t want to end up having cows in the yard. Why did people move here, and what do they want out of this city?”
Ugh…..I need a drink….
However, Pentel, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, noted that she has observed a “sea change” in younger people.
“They want to know where their food comes from,” she said. “They’re interesting in growing locally and gardening. We encourage people to do what’s right along impaired waterways, but it’s a changing world in terms of what people want to do on their property.”
Mayor Shep Harris said he favors “allowing people to have some choice.”
Oh that’s nice Mr. Mayor…..give us “some choice”…..I suppose you think you should be commended for that…..
“Ground has already been broken by other communities,” Harris said. “It has worked well when it is regulated appropriately. If we really do believe as a community we are concerned about impaired waters, that is another conversation.”
Councilmember De De Scanlon favored going along with the Environmental Commission’s recommendation as is. “The Environmental Commission has been very fair,” Scanlon said.
Well, we are happy councilperson Scanlon feels that way, but the proposal is way too restrictive.
City Manager Tom Burt said if chickens are allowed in the city, violations would be pursued on a complaint basis only.
Harris thanked the commission for taking its time in deliberating the issue. “This is not the highest priority in the city, but we want to do it right and send a message about what kind of community we are,” Harris said.
So is that a yes or no?????