Iowa City to Vote on Backyard Chickens Next Week

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa – After being embroiled in a years-long debate, the fight over backyard chickens is going to a vote in Iowa City.

The City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to hold a public hearing and first considerations of two ordinances that would lead to people being allowed to keep chickens in city limits.

The proposals would come with a flock of regulations, which were drawn up by city staffers and backyard chicken supporters. No more than four hens would be allowed, and only in the backyards of single-family homes. There could be no roosters, slaughtering or selling of eggs; chickens must be kept in a coop from desk to dawn; and feces must be properly disposed of at least once a week.

Also, a city-issued permit would be required, and applicants would have to notify neighbors of adjoining property lines. If a neighbor objected, the police chief or his designee would determine whether there was a reasonable basis to deny the application, which could include drainage onto a neighboring property, a history of animal-control problems or property-management problems.

Several hundred people signed a petition in 2009 calling on Iowa City to OK what is often called urban or backyard chickens. A majority of council members, however, chose to scratch that from a list of issues to consider.

This past summer, an advocacy group calling itself Iowa City Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chicken Keeping, or I-CLUCK, submitted a petition signed by nearly 1,000 people.

After that, City Manager Tom Markus said the city could handle backyard chickens. Council members have not stated where they stand on the issue, but there has been some disagreement over the neighbor notification policy.

Two items related to backyard chickens are on the City Council's agenda for Tuesday. One is an amendment to the zoning code, which the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended last month. Another ordinance would establish the permit process.

A resolution adopting a policy laying out the regulations would go before the council if the permit ordinance gets to a third reading, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4.

Towns across the nation and in Iowa, including Cedar Rapids, allow backyard chickens. Supporters say it's an environmentally friendly way to get eggs and saves money on grocery bills.
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