Waupaca considers poultry ordinance
By Angie Landsverk
Complaints about the number of chickens on some residential properties in the city of Waupaca may result in an ordinance change.
While keeping or raising poultry is currently only allowed within the city’s Agricultural District, a different interpretation of the city’s zoning code has resulted in chickens being allowed on residentially zoned properties for the last six years.
“The reason it’s being brought to your attention is because we’ve received a couple complaints about some (residents) having a plethora of them on their property and some raising rabbits,” Brennan Kane, the city’s development director, said during the July 21 meeting of the Waupaca Common Council.
Kane, as well as City Administrator Henry Veleker and Police Chief Tim Goke, have all received complaints related to chickens in residential areas.
Goke said he received a complaint related to “one property on Lake Street.”
Kane referred to the same property at one point in the meeting, saying they are “definitely raising them.”
Veleker said there have also been complaints about odor.
In May 2009 urban chickens were a topic of discussion during a meeting of the city’s Judiciary Committee, at the request of a few city residents.
At that time, the city did not have a development director.
Goke was at that meeting and noted that the city has an ordinance regulating poultry in agriculturally zoned areas but does not have an ordinance prohibiting chickens in residential areas.
However, according to Kane, under common planning laws and practices, when a use is not listed as being permitted in a particular zoning district, it is a prohibited use.
In a June 11 memo to the common council, he said the city’s municipal code has been “stretched” to accommodate those who want to have chickens on their property.
He said the city has a zoning ordinance that prohibits animals and poultry from running at large and another ordinance related to public nuisances affecting health.
The second ordinance he referred to is about noisy animals or fowl.
During that 2009 Judiciary Committee meeting, the late Jim Boyer was a member of the committee and recommended referring the matter to the council and looking into an ordinance that would allow a maximum of five chickens on a residential property and require a fenced-in yard for the chickens.
Goke said he did not think there would be a problem letting the community develop it on its own, saying the city could keep an eye on the issue and use what was already in place if there were complaints about chickens running at large or causing noise and odor.
No action was ever taken.
As a result, when Kane deals with a complaint related to chickens and tells the resident to remove them, the property owner often refers to that 2009 discussion and will not remove the chickens, even though chickens are not allowed in residential areas of the city under current zoning.
Kane said city staff is looking for guidance from the council.
If the city is going to allow chickens on residential properties, he wants input from the council regarding the number allowed and the types of conditions.
By the end of last week’s discussion, Kane had received some of the feedback.
“I don’t have a problem with some. I don’t think we should allow multiple,” Ald. Paul Hagen said.
Ald. Paul Mayou agreed and also said there should be a limit as to the number of chickens allowed, with no roosters.
The city knows there are roosters in the city, including in the aldermanic district represented by Hagen and Eric Olson.
Both Hagen and Olson live on South State Street.
Hagen said there are chickens in their neighborhood. Some mornings, he wakes up to the sound of a rooster.
Olson said he hears the rooster every morning.
Ald. Alan Kjelland said he would be “inclined” to only permit chickens in agriculturally zoning areas of the city.
Kane said he will draft an ordinance that allows a certain number of chickens in residential neighborhoods but no roosters.
Rabbits and bees were also mentioned during last week’s council meeting.
Residents may not raise rabbits in the city; rabbits have to be indoor pets.
City Attorney Hart said former alderperson Deb Fenske had bees at one time, and there were no problems.
Hart said he does not know if she still has them.