City considers chicken ordinance
By Angie Landsverk
An ordinance being considered by the Waupaca Common Council would allow people in single-family and two-family residence districts to have up to five chickens.
“I’d like to see an ordinance come through for chickens,” Ald. Chuck Whitman said during a Feb. 17 public hearing on the proposed ordinance.
However, both Whitman and Ald. Lori Chesnut described the proposed fees attached to the proposed ordinance and the need to get the approval of adjacent property owners as being restrictive and excessive.
The public hearing took place prior to the common council’s meeting.
The proposed ordinance was on first reading before the council that evening and is scheduled for a vote when the council meets on Tuesday, March 1.
The meeting, open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, located in the lower level of city hall.
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 residential zoned properties for close to seven years.
Complaints about the number of chickens on some residential properties resulted in Development Director Brennan Kane bringing the matter to the council’s attention last summer.
At last week’s council meeting, he again explained why he brought up the issue, saying he sought guidance from the council after there were issues and violations in the city and a difference of opinion as to whether urban chickens are presently allowed.
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.
However, as Kane deals with complaints in the city related to chickens and tells residents to remove them, the property owners often refer to a discussion which took place in 2009 regarding chickens and will not remove them.
That prior discussion took place when the city did not have a development director.
Urban chickens were a topic of discussion during a May 2009 meeting of the city’s Judiciary Committee, at the request of a few residents.
At that meeting, Police Chief Tim Goke noted the city has an ordinance regulating poultry in agriculturally zoned areas but does not have an ordinance prohibiting chickens in residential areas.
The decision was made to let the community develop it on its own and if there were complaints, to use ordinances already in place related to animals running at large or causing noise and odor.
After last summer’s discussion about complaints, an ordinance was drafted.
Under the proposed ordinance, a permit would be required. The initial fee would be $50 per household and $20 annually after that.
Kane told the council an investigation of urban chicken ordinances from the area and throughout the state had those same fees across the board.
He said the fees would recoup some of staff’s time checking on properties to make sure residents meet the conditions of the ordinance.
The ordinance would also require the applicant to obtain written consent from the property’s owner where the chickens will be kept, as well as from occupants or owners directly abutting the property.
Kane told the council that requirement was also part of every ordinance reviewed by his staff.
With a permit, up to five chickens would be be allowed in single-family and two-family residence districts.
No roosters would be allowed.
After Ald. Steve Hackett said a resident, who has a rooster, contacted him, Kane said he has received complaints about roosters in the city but has not cited the residents who have them.
Following the council’s vote on the proposed ordinance, Kane would send letters to anyone who has a rooster, saying the rooster should be removed.
He noted all chickens currently on properties are non-conforming.
“I’m hoping to have it fully implemented by the end of the year, to give people time to conform,” he said.
Kane also said the proposal brought forward by the city’s Plan Commission would allow the slaughtering of chickens within an enclosed space.
Staff originally proposed the slaughtering of chickens be prohibited on a property, whether inside or outside, he said.
The Plan Commission recommended slaughtering could occur within an enclosed space and not outdoors.
Kane said staff continues to support prohibiting the slaughtering of chickens on a property whether inside or outside.
“There are no ordinances that allowed slaughtering at all on a property,” he told the council last week.
He wants the council to address that portion of the proposed ordinance.
The proposed ordinance also includes requirements related to the size and placement of chicken coops.
A coop would not be allowed in the front or side yard of a dwelling and could also not be closer than 10 feet from the principal structure and three feet from side and rear property lines.
A coop could also not be closer than 25 feet to any residential structure on an adjacent lot.
When Ald. Paul Hagen said the 25 feet restriction would be “rather cumbersome” for some property owners, Ald. Alan Kjelland said it is not always appropriate to raise chickens on any residential property.