STC Village denies chicken ordinance on a 4-3 vote
BY HILLARY GRIGONIS STAFF REPORTER
ST. CHARLES – After debate about the agricultural benefit versus a residential area nuisance, the St. Charles Village Council denied a motion to create an ordinance allowing chickens within village limits Wednesday.
In May, the Planning Commission recommended the council consider an ordinance allowing a limited number of hens in a narrow 4-3 vote. The council discussed the recommendation at last month’s meeting, but agreed to table the decision to consider some of the opinions and information discussed.
At the June 13 meeting, the discussion opened with the results from a survey of other Michigan villages and cities. Some of those who responded did not have an ordinance prohibiting or regulating chickens. Other areas, like St. Charles currently, do not allow chickens. Some municipalities allow chickens with a strict set of regulations. Traverse City, for example, allows a maximum of four hens (no roosters) in a fully enclosed space at least 25 feet from any neighboring parcel.
Trustee Kristine Neumann said she didn’t think the village was set up to handle chickens, with most of the lots only 66 feet wide. if the village were to require the chickens be enclosed 25 feet away from the property lines, there wouldn’t be much room left for a chicken enclosure, she said.
Village Manager Hal Mead said the council’s legal representative said the Right to Farm Act does not apply, an issue that was brought up in the May discussion. The act, Mead said, is designed to protect farmers when urban sprawl encroaches on their farms that existed before the area became residential.
Village President Doug Holem asked James McPhail, a resident interested in raising chickens, how he would set up his yard for chickens.
McPhail said he wanted to have four to six hens and two rabbits and teach his kids how to raise them. The chickens would be enclosed in a “chicken tractor,” a mobile coop and fenced outdoor enclosure that could be backed up to the barn in the winter and set out in the garden in the summer. McPhail said a large chicken tractor is 10 feet by 20 feet, but the structure wouldn’t be any bigger because it needs to be movable.
“There are not going to be that many people interested,” Holem said. “I don’t see this as any different than the other animals we allow.”
“I certainly wouldn’t want it next door to me,” Neumann said.
Holem pointed out that it is an issue of cleanliness and proper care of the animals.
Nuemann said the problem is that some residents might not take proper care of chickens.
Police Chief Barry Dobis added that it is difficult currently to try and get some residents to clean up debris in their yard. The council noted that enforcing ordinance regulations sometimes means court cases over a few years before the issue is taken care of.
“Nintey-nine percent of the people here, you wouldn’t need an ordinance for anything, they do what they need to. it is the other one percent,” Mead said. “okay, we have a population that wants chickens, but now you are forcing the neighbors to live with chickens next door.”
After some further discussion, Trustee Marie Roe made a motion to start the process of developing an ordinance allowing chickens. In a roll call vote, the motion was denied 4-3; Roe, Holem and Lois Theilie voted yes; Neumann, Gary Breidinger, Diane Dennis and Tom White voted no.