by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
The Owosso Planning Commission held a virtual meeting on Monday, Aug. 24 to discuss allowing an animal ordinance for backyard chickens. A number of cities in Michigan now allow chickens including Flint, East Lansing, Lansing and Saginaw, along with several smaller municipalities similar in size to Owosso.
Planning commission received a variety of information to assist in the discussion, including guidance from MSU Extension, a spreadsheet comparing various ordinances and also a letter from a resident who is against backyard chickens in Owosso.
MSU Extension information suggests limiting chickens to single or two-family residences and keeping the number of chickens to between four and six per house. It also shares that roosters should not be permitted, chickens should not be allowed inside of any residence or attached porch or garage, that a chicken house or coop should be kept five to ten feet from any property line and at least ten to twenty feet from any neighbor and that the chicken owner would need to be appropriately responsible for waste materials. A euthanasia program (for sick or old chickens) along with proper bird disposal would also need to be developed.
During the planning commission meeting, some of the early talk recommended limiting chickens to just four hens, not allowing roosters, requiring necessary enclosures and fencing with possible permits and/or fees in place. Some of the commissioners – nine were present – expressed concerns over noise, waste, vaccinations and the need to have numerous restrictions in place.
Justin Sprague, of CIB Planning, pointed out that Fenton adopted a chicken ordinance seven years ago and now only has 12 permits issued in the entire city with an annual $45 inspection fee required. Commissioner Dan Law shared he has an issue with the noise and mess and concerns since he is a dog owner. Secretary Janae Fear said she has had several constituents express an interest in owning chickens within the city, though she does not think raising chickens would suddenly become widespread.
Some residents voicing opinions during the virtual meeting included Laura VanHyte who would like chickens to be allowed. VanHyte stated that chickens are not smelly and urged the commission to proceed. Tom Kurtz expressed concerns regarding code enforcement and also that raccoons and possums, which might be attracted to chickens, are destructive. Levi Perry shared he grew up with chickens and likes fresh eggs – and that many concerns could be overcome by inspections.
Commissioner Dan Law suggested putting the issue on the ballot, but Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne informed him it would not be legal to do so as it is policy.
Both Commissioners Tadd Morris and Fear thought the conversation warranted more information and further discussion. A motion was made by Commissioner Thomas Taylor and supported by Law, disallowing further discussion and not moving forward on a chicken ordinance. The motion carried five to four to end anymore talk on chickens.