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Norwalk couple loses bid to keep chickens within city limits

Source: Des Moines Register
Date: August 13, 2009
Byline: unsigned

Doug and Sheila Clement must get rid of the 12 chickens they bought their grandchildren for Easter after the Norwalk City Council voted down their request to keep them within city limits. They were the fourth property owner to ask for urban chickens and the first to be denied.

The Clements of 509 Marie Ave. asked for an exception to a city ordinance that restricts livestock from city limits at the Aug. 6 council meeting. They came to the council for permission after the city received a complaint about chickens on their property in July. City staff investigated the complaint, found chickens in the Clement’s backyard and sent them a letter explaining their violation.

“We clean the shed weekly — there’s no smell,” Doug Clement said to the council. “You’re welcome to come and visit it at anytime.”

Clement asked for permission to keep all 12 chickens, but said he would downsize to four chickens if the council insisted. The council allowed three other Norwalk residents to have up to four egg-laying chickens on their properties earlier this summer. None of those residents had chickens on their property before asking the council’s permission.

In April, the council directed city staff to write an urban chicken ordinance after a Norwalk resident asked for an exception. The first reading passed with a 3-2 vote, but e-mails against the ordinance caused Councilman Eric Delker to change his vote at the second reading. After the ordinance failed, Councilman John Putbrese, who voted against the ordinance, directed residents wanting chickens to ask for an exception because he would vote in favor of their individual petitions.

Putbrese did not vote in favor of the Clement’s request along with Delker and Councilman Frank Curtis.

“You do not have (support) from all your neighbors and I’m going to have to vote no,” Putbrese said.

The Clements asked 10 surrounding property owners to support their request. Six of them said yes to the chickens and four said no. Under the failed ordinance, the Clements would have needed 50 percent of their neighbors in favor of the chickens and would have qualified.

“I don’t understand how my chickens are offending my neighbors in any way,” Clement said.

In a staff memo, Norwalk Development Services Director Chris Nosbisch reminded the council that without the proposed urban chicken ordinance his staff has no procedure or submittal requirements in order to apply for the waiver and recommended the council create a policy.