Debate about whether to allow residents of Lookout Mountain, Ga., to keep chickens, took place at a public meeting Thursday afternoon prior to the November city council meeting. Most of the residents who spoke in favor of allowing the animals already keep them despite the town’s ordinance from 1988 prohibiting the practice unless the property is at least five acres.
Mayor David Bennett said in recent years that enough residents have requested having chickens to re-open the conversation.
The town has also received complaints about people that already have them.
At the meeting there were almost an equal number of people speaking for and against. Reasons people favored allowing chickens included that they eat a variety of pests such as fleas, ticks, spiders, slugs and mosquitoes and that they provide fresh eggs. Some see it as a way to connect children to food sources, and others said they should be permitted because of property rights. A Georgia law says that no municipality can adopt or enforce any ordinance regulating animal husbandry. Community volunteer Jimmy Campbell said he believes this would supersede the ordinance that Lookout Mountain, Ga. has now. City Attorney Bill Pickering had a different interpretation, but will study it further.
Arguments against included the fear that allowing neighbors to keep chickens could lower property values, that some people would not do it the right way and have coops that are eyesores and animals that would be noisy and smell bad. Others cited health concerns such as Histoplasmosis, that causes vision and respiratory problems, which Taylor Watson said she contracted as a child from playing around chickens on a farm. Others said salmonella and viruses could be a problem. Several feared that chickens would attract natural predators such as coyotes and foxes. One resident said people might hesitate to speak against it for fear of creating ill-will with their neighbors who already have chickens. Rules that would be needed if chickens are approved would need to be enforced and this is another problem for the police department that is already stretched thin.
Council members will continue to consider comments from the community and plan to take action on the matter at the January council meeting.
Council member Caroline Williams gave a Fairyland School update. Standardized testing done last spring resulted in the school scoring 99.8, the highest it has ever attained. It placed 15th out of all 12,000 elementary schools in Georgia. She said this is what happens when the community rallies around the school with volunteers and monetary donations. The Hydroponics project now has received $110,000 of the $150,000 goal. Grants and contributions are expected to provide the remainder. It is hoped that construction can start by spring. She also asked for donations to the fund that is dedicating a tee-ball field in recognition of Rick Dockery, retiring, longtime recreation director on the mountain.
Chief Todd Gann proposed a list of changes to implement in order to combat speeding on the mountain since other measures have failed. He plans to increase the number of miles patrolled, and will encourage officers to enforce the speed limits by issuing citations. Two mobile speed signs have been ordered that will remind drivers if they are speeding and will give the police data about where the problem areas are. The decision has also been made for Georgia State Troopers to help patrol the streets and enforce the speed limit, even though it will be an unpopular decision, said Council member Taylor Watson. Chief Gann also asked for the council to approve a speed reduction from the current 25 to 15 mph on Princess Trail and Robin Hood. Instead, the council has decided to make a universal reduction on all streets to 20 mph because when stop signs or speed bumps are put up, traffic just moves over one street and speeding continues.
Statistics from the police and fire departments in October show that 2,998 miles were patrolled, 22 traffic stops were made, and 17 citations and 15 warnings were issued. Three burglar alarms were answered; two suspicious vehicles and six suspicious people were investigated. There were two accidents, five assist citizens and four calls to assist other agencies. During the month, there were five medical calls and one fire call as well as six city ordinance warnings. There were no thefts or burglaries.
The sewer board must operate with fiscal responsibility in order to pay for current operations and capital improvements, said Wes Hasden. In 2017 WWTA increased the amount charged to the city by $19,000, which was unknown at the time that the budget was created. It also is highly likely that increases will continue in years to come because of future state mandates for sewer improvements, he said. There is no other way to meet the requirements, said Mr. Hasden, except to raise individual sewer bills somewhere between three and four dollars each month. The council voted to approve the increase for the remaining seven months in the fiscal year at which time the rate will be re-visited.
The city was given a clean audit report, for 2016-2017, said C.P.A. Paul Johnson with Johnson, Murphy and Wright. With the $1.5 million budget, he said the net profit increased from 2016 to 2017. But, he added, there is sewer debt of $300,000 in principal payments that must be paid off by 2022. The city has $228,000 in cash, enough to pay the debt, but that is not a lot when major repairs are needed, he told the council. However, the city is in the black, said Mr. Johnson.
Leaf pick-up is in process and the city will soon start Saturday leaf service so that the clean up should be complete in about one and a half months. Residents are asked to separate leaves from brush and sticks to speed the process and increase efficiency.
Mayor Bennett announced the first annual Christmas parade on Thursday, Nov. 30. The route will wind through Fairyland to collect toys for the Walker County Sheriff’s Department “Stocking Full of Love.” The parade will start at 5 p.m. at the school and end at city hall at 6:30 where there will be Christmas music, refreshments and lighting of the Christmas tree. The mayor said letters will go to the community asking for donations to the employees Christmas fund.
Jimmy Campbell is working on the creation of a planned unit development (PUD) for the city as a way to incorporate higher density residential areas. He told the council that developing a five-year master plan is the most important thing needed for future planning. Mr. Campbell hopes to present a PUD plan at the December council meeting.