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Commission to consider chicken amendment

Source: Traverse City Record-Eagle
Date: August 5, 2009
Byline: Sheri McWhirter and Brian McGillivary

TRAVERSE CITY — City residents, chickens may soon be moving to a coop near you.

Traverse City Planning Commission members will consider a proposed ordinance amendment to allow residents to keep up to four chickens — but no roosters — in their backyards when they meet at 7 p.m. today in the Governmental Center. If approved, the proposal moves to the city commission for its consideration.

Planning Commissioner John Serratelli said no negative comments have arisen during two public meetings that featured consideration of a chicken ordinance. City officials initially feared feathers might fly over the notion, but opposition failed to materialize.

Planning Commissioner Ross Richardson said he doesn't expect a rash of chicken ranches to pop up in the city if domestic fowl are OK'd here.

"Ann Arbor allows it and I think they have about five or six people raising chickens in the city limits," Richardson said. "As long as they are properly maintained and separated from the neighbors, I don't think it will cause any harm."

Russell Soyring, city planning director, said some residents worried about noise, odor and predators that may be drawn into city neighborhoods.

Planners rejected a proposal to require chicken owners to be licensed, but adopted several other restrictions. The proposed ordinance amendment requires a fully enclosed shelter with an optional covered fence enclosure kept at least 25 feet from neighboring homes. It also prohibits chickens from being slaughtered outdoors.

The planning commission picked a four-bird limit because that's what other cities have done, Richardson said.

Ed Roth, Slabtown neighborhood president, hasn't heard a peep one way or another about the proposal. But some may understandably have concerns, he said.

"There's some line when you move into the city for city things and move into the country for country things," Roth said. "But I understand what they want to do and Traverse City is cool to be open-minded enough to consider these things."

Old Town neighborhood President Mark Crane said urban farming is a national movement that's just now hitting Traverse City, and those in his neighborhood seem open to the concept.

"Would you rather have a dog that barks night and day on your street, or chickens," Crane said.