An ordinance to create new provisions for issuing permits associated with animals was passed on the first reading by the Chattanooga City Council Tuesday night. The permits relate to dealers, kennels, animal performances, animal rescue and dogs in outdoor dining areas and for urban chickens. Interest in allowing chickens within the city limits of Chattanooga is the part of the ordinance that brought the crowd of people to the council meeting.
This ordinance was created by the new Animal Control Board in collaboration with Karen Walsh, director of McKamey Animal Shelter which contracts with the city for animal services. A first draft had been provided to the council earlier, and at the agenda meeting prior to the council meeting, amendments were made to the original proposal. Most changes eased requirements for those wishing to keep backyard chickens.
Councilwoman Carol Berz stated that the public should be aware of the amendments made on Tuesday. Before the vote, Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett read aloud the changes that were made. Revisions include letting a neighborhood association opt-out of allowing chickens, based on the signature of two-thirds of the residents. In neighborhoods with restrictive covenants, no permits will be issued. The fee for permitting chickens was reduced from $100 to $50 with a $10 renewal charge. There will be no pre-permitting inspections and the system will be “complaint driven.” Distance restrictions from adjoining properties requires a coop and fenced enclosure and for them to be set back at least 15 feet from the property line and 25 feet from any building. Eight urban chickens is the limit and they will be allowed only at detached single family houses. Renters will only be allowed to keep chickens by consent of the landlord, and then, only at single family detached houses. Colored leg bands will not be required.
After hearing comments made by citizens at the meeting who addressed the commission, Councilman Jerry Mitchell made one more amendment before the vote. Written permission must be given by all neighbors adjacent to a property who wish to have backyard chickens, before a license will be issued.
Mr. Noblett noted that there will be a one year limit on this ordinance which will expire on Aug. 1, 2014. The new version of the ordinance will be posted online for citizens to read before the second and final vote at the next council meeting.
With the crowd of people at the meeting because of this issue, only three addressed the city council. Ron Roy, who lives in Riverview, told the council that health issues were not being addressed. Chickens attract racoons, he said, and they can carry serious diseases. Additionally, it was said that the noise begins at 5 a.m. and continues the entire day. Odor is another issue to consider and real estate appraisers at Zillow say if a neighbor has chickens, it will be disastrous for neighboring homes.
Susan Roy played a tape of the noise generated by four chickens in the yard behind her daughter’s house in Seattle, WA. The noise, she said makes it impossible to enjoy being outside and there is a stench and many flies during warm weather.
Kathy Trundle who lives in North Chattanooga was unaware of the pending vote on this ordinance until Tuesday. Her opinion was that the issue should be put on a ballot for everybody to vote on.
Council Chairman Yusef Hakeem responded that this item has been online at the city’s website, and in the news and that the council has not tried to hide the discussions.
A final vote on the ordinance that included the amendments was passed on a vote of six to three. Voting no were Carol Berz, Ken Smith and Larry Grohn. Before the vote, Councilman Smith told the audience that the city council members were there to represent their districts and the city as a whole, not to promote their personal opinions. He asked everyone to remember that once a vote was taken. He said that residents in Chris Anderson’s district were asking for chickens to be allowed, but only one person in his district was for the proposal, so he said he would vote no.
Councilwoman Berz thanked the animal control board for the hard work to create the ordinance and their sincere efforts, but said she would not support it because her constituency is opposed to it. She added that she appreciated that Chris Anderson was representing the wishes of his constituents.
In the explanation of his negative vote, Larry Grohn questioned who would benefit from building chicken coops. He said eggs would end up costing $20-$40 per dozen for eggs that come from backyard chickens. He also was concerned that the $50 permit fee would come nowhere close to covering the inspection fees that will be needed. The maximum fine that is allowed in Chattanooga is $50, which would not be much of a deterrent for breaking the rules. The way the ordinance is written, he said it will be up to the neighbors to complain if there is a problem. Additionally, realtors have told him that it is “the kiss of death” “There is not a single person in his district that wants this thing,” he told the council.
On the recommendation of Ms. Berz, an educational session about keeping urban chickens will be held for the council members and be open to the public between the vote Tuesday night and the second reading of the ordinance and final vote. She said it needs to be objective and truly discuss cons and pros. "Experts in the area should educate us. Good information yields good decisions," she said. Chairman Hakeem asked Mr. Anderson and Mr. Grohn to each bring two experts on the subject to the educational meeting. The exact time for this seminar will be publicized in the news media and on the city’s web site.
In other city business, approval was given to title a newly-created department Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Department. This will replace the previous Human Services Department.
A one-time purchase of Windows 7 licenses for the Chattanooga Police Department was approved which will allow more computers to connect onto the same operating platform.
The third year of a five-year contract with Griggs and Maloney that will provide engineering services at the Summit Landfill was approved, which is renewable on a yearly basis.
A standard paving contract was authorized for an increase by the same amount that another project was decreased. An approval was given for an increase of $110,000 for the extension of Goodwin Road from Gunbarrel Road to Jenkins Road.
A resolution authorizing Donna Williamas, administrator of the economic and community development department, to accept a grant and distribute the funds to any agency that serves the homeless was approved.
Travis Lytle was named by Mayor Andy Berke as a replacement for Moses Freeman to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority board of directors.