City Manager: IC backyard chicken ordinance feasible

BY KRISTEN EAST | JULY 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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The chickens are back.

The Iowa City City Council is scheduled to once again discuss the possibility of implementing a backyard-chicken ordinance during a work session on July 31. City Councilors will decide whether the item merits a place on a future meeting agenda.

City Manager Tom Markus addressed the City Council in a memorandum dated July 24, noting a backyard-chicken ordinance would be feasible in Iowa City with a change to the city’s zoning code.

The code currently prohibits citizens from raising farm animals — including chickens — in any residential area.

“There is no doubt some violations are likely to occur; therefore, it is essential that effective standards for keeping backyard chickens be adopted to ensure accountability, avoid nuisances, and to protect a neighbor’s right to the enjoyment of their property,” Markus wrote.

The City Council last addressed amending the zoning code to allow for urban chickens a few years ago. According to a 2009 memorandum, the Department of Housing and Inspection Services recommended councilors not amend the zoning code.

A petition circulated by I-CLUCK — an Iowa City group in favor of legalizing urban chickens — gathered nearly 1,000 signatures from local residents in support of the ordinance. The petition was presented to the council on July 10.

Iowa City resident Shannon Gassman, 25, started the petition earlier this year.

Iowa City residents are not alone; both Cedar Rapids and Ames allow backyard chickens.

Cedar Rapids officials amended the municipal code in 2010 to allow for backyard chickens in residential areas. According to the city memorandum, the animal-control director in Cedar Rapids has seen relatively few issues with urban chickens.

There are approximately two to three complaints each month concerning smell, noise, or disorderly property, the memorandum said. Additionally, Cedar Rapids officials have impounded four chickens because the owner did not have a permit, and they have impounded 10 to 12 stray chickens.

Jennifer Murtoff, an urban-chicken consultant based in the Chicago area, previously told The Daily Iowan roughly 95 cities nationwide allow urban chicken keeping.

“This is definitely a growing national trend,” Murtoff told the DI in April.

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