By Jennifer Eisenbart

Editor

If a small number of City of Burlington residents want to raise backyard chickens, they are going to need to be heard by the Common Council.

By an unofficial count Tuesday night, the council decided not to move forward with efforts to put together an ordinance governing chicken coops in the city.

A small number of residents showed up at Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting to speak to benefits of raising chickens, as well as refute common complaints, but the majority of council members didn’t want to open that particular door.

Several aldermen said they heard from numerous constituents who raised concerns about neighbors potentially raising chickens. Those complaints, they said, mostly had to do with smell and noise.

“They’re just looking at this as one more thing we add on that we can’t control,” Alderman Ruth Dawidziak said.

Alderman Bob Grandi echoed the sentiment, saying that in the last month, he has had to rally city resources to deal with a hoarder, a woman keeping cat houses in her back yard, and a pit bull charging the fence of a home.

“I just wonder how much more I can draw on these resources,” Grandi said.

But Alderman Jon Schultz said that he felt a trial period for city chickens might be best, giving people a chance to raise them – and giving residents an opportunity for more freedom, as he expressed having “issues” with telling people what to do.

“I don’t think we’re going to have 1,000 homes with chickens,” Schultz said. “I think they’ll be a lot less intrusive than dogs that bark.

“One of the things I love about this community is that we err on the side of allowing people to do what they want,” he added.

Alderman Ed Johnson didn’t necessarily agree with the concept, but thought the city needed to at least have a trial period. Aldermen Tom Vos and Todd Bauman weighed in against the proposal, while Aldermen John Ekes and Tom Preusker were strongly against the idea.

Meanwhile, a few proponents were at the meeting, including Angela Schenk – who originally brought up the idea earlier this spring and wrote a letter supporting the idea – and Tracy Lazzaro.

Lazzaro said that chickens produce less waste than the average house cat, provided organic fertilizer for gardens and would likely not draw more than a handful of people who were serious about raising them.

She and others also argued that there would be permits issued that could be revoked if there were issues – unlike noisy dogs or too many cats.

Paul Newbury, though, argued in response that the city can’t even contain a person with too many cats.

“There are people who just aren’t considerate,” he said. “I think there should be some very strict restrictions.”

In the end, after going back and forth over what was right for the city – including the argument that the city was, in fact, a city and not a rural community – the informal count shot down even the idea of the staff drawing up a proposed ordinance.

At the end of the discussion, Schultz turned to the people in the audience hoping to raise the chickens, making a plea that the supporters be heard now as well.

“I would suggest if you have people who support this, have them call their alderman,” he said.

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