Council zeroes in on final decision on chickens, pets

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council will likely make a decision on whether to allow many Sweet Home residents with less than a half acre of property to raise chickens on Oct. 25.

The council held the first reading of a proposed ordinance revision during its regular meeting on Sept. 27. It must hold three readings of the ordinance before it can vote on the ordinance. The second reading will be held on Oct. 11 and the third on Oct. 25, which would typically be when the council would vote on the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would permit up to six chickens on properties smaller than a quarter acre, 12 on properties between a quarter acre and a half acre and 24 on a half acre.

The ordinance currently allows up to 24 chickens, including roosters, on half-acre properties. The ordinance would ban roosters completely.

The proposal allows ducks on quarter-acre properties and larger and geese on half-acre properties and larger.

It also permits up to three rabbits on properties less than a quarter acre, six rabbits on properties between a quarter and a half acre and 24 rabbits on properties larger than a half acre.

They may only be kept on properties with a stand-alone single-family dwelling or duplex.

The ordinance outlines requirements for keeping certain miniature animals, such as horses, pigs, cow, sheep, donkeys and goats.

Arachnids and lizards, with the exception of crocodilians, would be removed from the list of banned exotic, wild and dangerous animals and listed among those considered to be household pets.

The proposed ordinance will allow city residents six months to comply with changes in regulations.

“As the council and hopefully most of the public in the community is aware, for several months now the council has been reviewing at the committee level some revisions that were initially focused on keeping of fowl and chickens,” said City Manager Craig Martin.

Local resident Bruce Hobbs requested that the council take a look at the ordinance.

As the discussion moved forward, it became evidence that other elements needed to be considered, Martin said, particularly regarding particular animals being regulated more appropriately given current conditions within the community.

The proposal takes into consideration an online survey of Sweet Home citizens and discussions at the Public Safety Committee, Martin said. Regulations, such as setback requirements, are there to help prevent negative impacts to neighbors.

Mayor Craig Fentiman said that enforcing the ordinance was probably his biggest concern.

Councilor Greg Mahler said that was a major discussion at the committee level.

Like other nuisance ordinances, complaints would be handled through the code enforcement office, Martin said.

The committee also debated the size of lots where chickens should be allowed, Mahler said. He thinks it should be at least a half acre inside the city, as the ordinance already requires, or they should be outside the city limits.

“I don’t see that everybody is going to rush out and buy six chickens,” Fentiman said. “If they do, it’ll surprise me. I think there are more chickens in town than you actually realize. I’ve seen them on Elm Street. I’ve seen them on sidewalks. I don’t think we’ll be inundated.”

“Actually, one block from me there’s chickens,” Mahler said. “I can hear them every morning when I go to work.”

The ordinance is crafted in response to community discussion, Martin said, and it is manageable and enforceable. Staff members expect the most likely complaint will be chickens not staying contained on the property where they belong.

He could say there won’t be problems, but the city will respond should problems arise, Martin said.

Present at the meeting were Fentiman, Mahler, Marybeth Angulo and Mike Hall. Absent were Jim Gourley, Ron Rodgers and Scott McKee Jr.

In other business, the council:

n Appointed Bruce Hobbs and Garrit Schaffer to the Budget Committee, with terms expiring on Sept. 30, 2014. They succeed Al Culver and Dave Holley. Aaron Cantrell also applied for the committee.

n Appointed Aaron Cantrell and Frank Gallagher to the Traffic Safety Committee, with terms expiring on Sept. 30, 2013. Hobbs also applied for the committee.

n Appointed Brianne McKee to the Library Board, with a term expiring on June 30, 2015. Cantrell also applied for the board.

n Approved a $94,000 contract with Erwin Consulting Engineering LLC of Lebanon to design a replacement for two water storage reservoirs at the city’s 10th Avenue reservoir site.

The reservoirs, with capacities of 300,000 gallons and 700,000 gallons, are deteriorating, said Public Works Director Mike Adams.

They can be replaced at the existing site with a single reservoir with a capacity of 1.5 million gallons, increasing overall capacity by 500,000 gallons.