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Get ready for chickens, Iowa City; council passes final vote

BY NICK HASSETT | DECEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Chickens can legally reside in Iowa City — almost.

The Iowa City City Council voted 5-2 in favor of an ordinance allowing urban chickens, with Councilors Michelle Payne and Terry Dickens voting against it. However, they deffered discussion of a chicken-keeping policy to their Dec. 18 meeting. Such a policy is necessary before chickens are fully allowed within city limits.

It’s an issue that has previously faced considerable debate during public discussion, though no citizens spoke during the public discussion of the measure on Tuesday evening.

In supporting the measure, Councilor Rick Dobyns said the community influenced him.

“The people who are excited about this are people our city is excited to have in our midst,” he said. “For me, it’s not about the poultry, but about the people.”

Many cities across the nation and throughout the state have adopted urban chicken ordinances, including Cedar Rapids and Ames.

The prospect of allowing urban chickens has faced the council before.

City officials have discussed the possibility of a chicken ordinance in the past, but city staff previously recommended that councilors not amend the zoning code to allow chickens. However, city staff did recommend the current ordinance and policy.

The council also held a vote on collapsing the required readings for a permit system for owning chickens, though the vote failed 5-2. A vote to reduce the number of required considerations needs 6 of 7 votes to pass.

However, the vote on the second consideration of the permit system passed 5-2, with Dickens and Payne opposing both measures.

The fee for an initial permit would be $100; it will cost $75 to renew the permit, which would have to be done once every three years.

Now that the ordinance allowing chickens has passed, the council will develop a policy regarding the keeping of urban chickens.

The planned provisions included setting the number of chickens allowed to four and giving neighbors to would-be chicken owners the right to “veto” the chickens.

The veto provision has faced debate among councilors and the community.

City councilors were mixed on the veto provision, with Payne, Connie Champion, Dickens, and Mayor Matt Hayek in favor of a veto provision, while Jim Throgmorton and Dobyns have expressed discomfort with a veto process.

However, Hayek has previously stated his desire to start the chicken- keeping process conservatively, with a veto provision to begin with, and later evaluating whether such a provision is necessary.

KT Labadie, an Iowa City resident who co-owns the website urbanchickens.org, said that while she thought the veto provision planned to be included in the policy wasn’t ideal, she supported the ordinance overall.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “I hope in the future there aren’t any problems related to neighbor issues, and the council can evaluate the policy once it’s in place. I’m really excited.”

But local would-be chicken owners should hold off on buying their hens just yet.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said no permits would be issued without the development of a chicken-keeping policy, meaning chickens will have to wait until next year.


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