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Urban chickens get the OK in Farmington

It's time for those who want to raise fresh eggs to get their chickens in a row, or at least start construction on a new coop.

On a 4-0 vote Monday, the Farmington City Council approved a new ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens on properties that are at least 10,000 square feet.

Commonly known as Farmington's chicken ordinance, the new ordinance was passed after its second time before the city council. A similar ordinance was presented in 2011, but voted down by the previous council.

It was brought back in February, when four teenage 4H members asked council to reconsider.

In its original form, the ordinance allowed for up to six hens to be kept in a coop on a property of 10,000 square feet or more, which is a typical size for many yards in the northern part of the community. The downtown residential lots are generally smaller than 10,000 square feet and would not qualify for coops under the new ordinance. It would also require a public hearing so neighbors could comment before the city issues the initial urban chicken permit. The permits would have to be renewed on an annual basis, with city staff's approval.

Farmington assistant city planner Tony Wippler brought the proposed chicken ordinance to the city's planning commission last week. Planning commissioners approved it on a 5-0 vote.

But council members were not as agreeable to the ordinance this week. Council member Christy Jo Fogarty had several concerns with the proposal. Trying to find a happy medium, Fogarty suggested lowering the number or chickens from six to three, and asking those who raise chickens to come back before council on an annual basis to renew the permits.

"The comment I got from one resident was that chickens belong on a farm, not in my neighbor's backyard back yard," Fogarty said. "I'm trying to find a balance in everything I'm hearing from everyone.... I'm not a big fan personally, but I also respect that we are a farming community and we have a lot of different interests in this community."

Council member Doug Bonar was fine with leaving the ordinance at six chickens, but made the motion to include only three for the first year "in the interest of world peace."

"I think it's time to move ahead on this topic, and if that's what it takes to move ahead, I'll support it," Bonar said.

The students who asked for the ordinance were in attendance at Monday's council meeting. While they are all excited and ready to start building their chicken coops and raising the poultry, they are also a bit disappointed by the number they can raise.

"It's a little disappointing because originally we said five chickens, and it was increased to six when we went to the planning commission, so we kind of got our hopes up," Stefan Randow said. "We really thought we could get it to be six."

Lerew Kaas, who started the inquiry into the chicken ordinance, is still pleased with the outcome. As a 4Her, he wanted to be able to show chickens at the Dakota County Fair. He'll be able to show two at a time, so being able to raise three chickens is still an opportunity he didn't have before, he said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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