published Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Chattanooga City Council: Urban chicken ordinance advances

The  Chattanooga City Council has voted on first reading to allow chickens in the city limits with some restrictions.
The Chattanooga City Council has voted on first reading to allow chickens in the city limits with some restrictions.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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HOW THEY VOTED

To defer voting on the animal permit ordinance:

• Chris Anderson -- no

• Carol Berz -- yes

• Moses Freeman -- no

• Russell Gilbert -- yes

• Larry Grohn -- yes

• Chip Henderson -- no

• Jerry Mitchell -- no

• Ken Smith -- no

• Yusuf Hakeem -- yes

To require chicken coop approval from all adjoining neighbors:

• Chris Anderson -- abstain

• Carol Berz -- yes

• Moses Freeman -- no

• Russell Gilbert -- yes

• Larry Grohn -- no

• Chip Henderson -- yes

• Jerry Mitchell -- yes

• Ken Smith -- abstain

• Yusuf Hakeem -- yes

To approve the animal permit ordinance

Chris Anderson -- yes

Carol Berz - no

Moses Freeman -- yes

Russell Gilbert -- yes

Larry Grohn -- no

Chip Henderson -- yes

Jerry Mitchell -- yes

Ken Smith -- no

Yusuf Hakeem -- yes

Some Chattanooga council members are concerned a first read ordinance governing urban chickens and other animal-related permits will have pro-poultry neighbors walking on egg shells and anti-chicken residents squawking.

That's because Chattanoogans hoping to keep backyard fowl will need approval from neighbors before putting up henhouses, according to the preliminary ordinance passed Tuesday. And the ordinance applies only to single-famly residences.

After lengthy debate, an amended animal control ordinance, which may soon govern rules for permitting urban chickens, animal breeders, kennels, pet dealers, animal performances and dogs in outdoor restaurants, cleared the council.

But urban chicken proponents shouldn't start counting eggs. The council will vote again on the ordinance next week after an education session hosted by Councilmen Chris Anderson and Larry Grohn. A time for the session has not been set.

The council Tuesday did not vote on an ordinance drafted by the Animal Control Board but a slightly amended version crafted by Anderson, which was approved earlier that day by the council's Economic and Community Development Committee that Anderson chairs.

Along with a last-minute amendment suggested by Jerry Mitchell that requires would-be chicken coop keepers to have written approval from all neighbors with whom they share property lines, Anderson's amended ordinance includes an opt-out provision for neighborhood associations and restrictive covenants.

Grohn, who has opposed allowing chickens in the city since the debate began, said he doesn't want the chicken issue to ruffle feathers in neighborhoods. He said the "neighbor approval" amendment particularly will put people in uncomfortable positions.

"I hate any neighbor to be put in a place of neighbor against neighbor. Without inspection, this is going to be a complaint driven situation," Grohn said. "We're going to make you confront your neighbor and have them sign a document that says you can't have a chicken house. That puts you in a spot."

During the meeting, Councilman Moses Freeman opposed the approval amendment because he said it could start -- or continue -- feuds.

Anderson, who has spearheaded the urban chicken movement on the council, said after the meeting he hopes the approval amendment doesn't filet residents' chicken-raising aspirations.

"I hope that neighbors will deal with each other honestly, and if they have any real issues they can deal with them," Anderson said. "I think through education, truly responsible chicken ownership will not adversely affect neighbors."

Also under the draft ordinance, a neighborhood association will be able to prohibit chicken coops if two-thirds of its membership oppose urban chickens.

The amended ordinance also scraps initial inspections for permits, which were estimated to cost the city $300, and calls for a complaint-driven enforcement mechanism.

Additionally, the fee for an urban chicken permit will be $50, instead of a previously proposed $100, and coops must be at least 15 feet from adjoining property lines and 25 feet from other residential structures.

A vote to defer the issue for one week was initially shot down 5-4. A second vote to adopt the neighbor approval was accepted 5-2, with two members abstaining.

Ultimately the first read of the ordinance passed 6-3.

Council members Mitchell, Chip Henderson, Russell Gilbert, Freeman, Anderson and Yusuf Hakeem voted to approve the ordinance.

Council members Ken Smith, Grohn and Carol Berz voted against it.

In other business, council members:

• Voted to accept an $131,441 Justice Assistance Grant to buy patrol rifles and software upgrades for the Chattanooga Police Department. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will receive $43,302 of the grant funds.

• Voted to increase a contract with Volkert and Associates by $110,000 for the Goodwin Road Extension, from Gunbarrel Road to Jenkins Road, which increases the contract to $388,656.

• Confirmed the appointment of Travis Lytle to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. Mayor Andy Berke made the appointment. The seat was formerly held by Councilman Moses Freeman.

• Passed a final reading of an ordinance altering language in the city code to conform with the new structure of the city government.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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