By John McLoone Chickens would be allowed in some Hastings residential zoning districts under an ordinance change that was recommended for approval by the City of Hastings Planning Commission Monday …
By John McLoone
Chickens would be allowed in some Hastings residential zoning districts under an ordinance change that was recommended for approval by the City of Hastings Planning Commission Monday night.
The backyard chicken ordinance got new life last month, when the City Council voted to send proposed ordinance changes to the plan commission for a hearing. About a dozen people spoke in favor of allowing chickens at residences.
After the unanimous vote, Community Development Director John Hinzman said the City Council will have a first reading of the ordinance changes at its meeting Tuesday night. That will set the stage for a public hearing before a city council meeting in late July, after which the council could ratify the ordinance.
Proponents of backyard chickens sought to expedite the passage to be able to buy chicks and have them ready to produce eggs by winter.
City Planner Justin Fortney provided a historical perspective of the backyard chicken issue in Hastings.
“In 2009, the Dakota County Historical Society made a request for the City to modify the ordinance to allow the keeping of chickens at the LeDuc Estate (zoned Public Institution) to interpret the agricultural aspect of William G. LeDuc’s life. Additionally, residents had requested the proposed ordinance be amended to allow chickens in residential areas. Ultimately, the City Council only approved keeping of chickens in the Public Institutional District,” Fortney wrote in a memo to Plan Commissioners.
“In addition to staff fielding regular inquiries by existing and potential residents in 2019, some residents persuaded the City Council to reconsider the proposal. The Planning Commission recommended approval, but the proposal failed approval by the City Council,” he wrote, noting it was sent to the council’s planning committee. That committee sought to revive the ordinance changes, but there weren’t enough votes at the council level to revive the measure.
If the ordinance is approved, it would allow for chickens on residential lots in the R-1, R-1L, R-2 and R-3 districts. Lots of less than one acre could have up to four hens. Lots larger than one acre could have one hen per quarter acre. Roosters would be prohibited.
Residents would apply for a five-year license with administrative review by city staff and a $75 fee.
After five years, the license would be renewed if there were no recent violations.
The ordinance requires shelter and enclosures for the chickens and pens would need to be at least five feet from property lines and fencing. See CHICKEN Page 3 Chicken
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Fortney said many Twin Cities-area cities are now allowing chickens in residential areas.
He noted 46 metro or major Minnesota cities that allow backyard chickens, and those cities aren’t seeing problems.
“Staff has spoken to staff from the following cities that allow chickens in residential areas: Rosemount, Anoka, South St. Paul, Burnsville, Inver Grove Heights and Farmington. They all reported they have not had any issues or complaints with the permitted chicken owners. They have between three and 15 permit holders with the average number being about nine,” said Fortney.
Fortney said Dakota County Public Health doesn’t foresee problems from backyard chickens, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said the birds won’t increase predators in a neighborhood, but potential predators could be kept away from the chickens with secured chicken enclosures.
Residents support the birds for a variety of reasons, from wanting fresh eggs to chickens eating insects.
“A small flock of chickens would hardly even be noticed, and I already have neighbor’s approval. They are excited about locally grown eggs,” said Becky Dammann.
“So many cities across the country have made this change and found it to be a non-issue. This will make many people in the community happy without causing a burden on the city,” said Timothy Lowing. “It is not fair to continue to block this change simply based on a few vocal opponents that voice irrational fears.”
One letter against the ordinance change was received.
“Hastings’ aspirations to trend up as a place to live, work and recreate will not be attained if allowing chickens to be raised in people’s back yards is permitted. They are barnyard creatures and belong in that kind of setting,” said Glenn Schnirring.
In what was billed as the last mandated virtual meeting for the City of Hastings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city Plan Commission held a public hearing Monday night on an ordinance that would allow for backyard chickens at some residences.