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Tecumseh City Council Votes Chickens Back In

 

September 5, 2019

After months of debate, the City of Tecumseh is welcoming chickens back in to the fold.

Chickens have long been a topic of discussion for the City Council, but the Tuesday meeting finally resolved the issue with an approved new ordinance, Number 816, allowing chickens on certain residential properties in city limits. The vote was 3-2.

The Road the Chickens had to Cross

The council first removed the ordinance allowing chicken on residential properties in 2012. In 2014, Vice Mayor Linda Praytor asked the board to revisit the ordinance.

“No one ever complained. People proved they could take care of them,” she said then, in favor of allowing chickens.

The majority of the board did not agree, though.

“It’s a slap in the face of trying to clean the city up,” Ward 4 councilmember John Collier said in opposition. “I love chickens, but not in residential areas.”

The 2014 vote was a 3-2 no, with Collier, Ward 1 councilmember Linda Farris and Ward 2 councilmember Bob Stewart voting down Praytor’s motion.

This year, a new chicken debate started.

The discussion started in the April 2019 meeting when 88-year-old Tecumseh resident James Hurst came to the board with a public comment concerning his chickens.

Hurst, who served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the Korean War. He owns chickens on his property on Maple St.

“These birds have been

a tremendous help

to me in dealing with my PTSD,” Hurst said.

He

said he received a letter from code enforcer James Smith that said he had

to remove the chickens from his property.

“If I cannot keep my chickens, I will suffer as they are a part of my (PTSD) therapy,” he said.

The council couldn’t discuss chickens then since the matter wasn’t on the agenda, but the next month’s meeting agenda included a discussion item specifically for chickens in city limits.

Praytor was first to speak in favor of allowing chickens in May.

She asked the rest of the council to think about the ordinances regarding dogs and cats. She said she feels that it’s the same, except chickens have a product.

“You all know I’m for chickens in city limits,” she said. “People love home-grown eggs. If you had four chickens, that averages about 120 eggs a month that you could put on somebody’s table.”

Farris, who voted no in the 2014 vote, said she spoke with residents in her ward, and their main concern was that their houses were too close to each other to provide enough space for chickens.

“One told me, ‘We can’t even enjoy our backyard in the summertime because of the flies that come in from our neighbors’ ducks and chickens,’” she said. “Most of them (the residents) were very firm about ‘No’ again.”

Farris and city attorney Mike Warwick started discussing lot size as a new way to determine if chickens were allowed. Most of the other towns’ ordinances they researched said a half acre was needed to allow chickens, but Warwick said that would only be about three percent of Tecumseh’s residents.

“If you want to let more people have chickens, you’d have to say a smaller lot size,” he said.

Mayor Parker said they would bring a potential ordinance to the council at the next meeting, and Praytor said her final thoughts for the first official chicken discussion.

“I think chickens are good. I think eggs are good for you. I think chickens teach kids responsibility.”

After the May meeting, chickens remained on the agenda for discussion every month, and the board went back and forth on the same topics.

At the August meeting, the council finally had an actionable item, to approve a new ordinance allowing chickens, but tabled it since the mayor was absent.

The Final Vote

In Tuesday’s meeting, the council was ready to put the debate to rest.

Collier, who had been vocal about his opposition to allowing chickens, spoke first.

“I appreciate what the city attorney has done putting this ordinance together, but my position has not changed,” he said. “I will not vote for it.”

Collier said he did not agree with the lot size requirement, which had been settled in the ordinance at a half acre, and said he could see resident disputes on who gets chickens and why some don’t get them.

“Chickens in town is not a good thing,” he said.

Praytor mentioned Edmond’s ordinance allowing chickens, since it is what she and Warwick based the new ordinance on.

She said Edmond was working to amend its ordinance to allow more residents to have chickens in the city limits.

“They have had no complaints,” Praytor said. “(Our ordinance) is a start. We can amend it too when we need to.”

(The Edmond Sun reported the city’s ordinance was enacted in 2017, and in two years, 37 permits allowing chickens were approved. The Edmond city council voted 3-2 in July to direct its staff to draft an amended ordinance to be voted on in August, according to the Edmond Sun, which the council then approved 4-1.)

Ward 3 Councilmember Sharon Stewart shared her thoughts on the new ordinance, as well.

“I’m not thrilled about it, but I think chickens in town is a coming thing,” she said.

Stewart also referred back to Edmond’s ordinance, as well as Shawnee’s, which was also voted on and approved Tuesday.

Then came the vote.

“I’m still going to love everyone either way, but I am going to ask for a motion to approve the new ordinance,” Mayor Parker said.

Praytor made the motion, which Stewart seconded. Stewart, Praytor and Parker turned in the majority yes votes, while Collier and Ward 1 councilmember Linda Farris, who was silent during discussion, turned in the two no votes.

Ordinance No. 816

• Only those on agriculturally zoned lots or residentially zoned lots of at least a half acre (21,780 square feet) or more may have chickens.

• No roosters are allowed, unless the property is zoned agricultural and more than five acres.

• Residents must obtain a permit from the city clerk to keep chickens. All coops and pens must be inspected and approved by the code enforcer before they can house chickens.

• Coops and runs should be at least 25 feet from property lines and other residences.

 

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