Discussion about allowing chickens in the town of Lookout Mountain, Ga., brought a crowd to the city council meeting Thursday night. Elizabeth Forrester, a resident, and Justin Workman, who is building a house in the city limits, came to the meeting with suggestions for creating an ordinance that would allow homeowners to keep chickens in their yards. In their proposal, the most important factors for consideration were limiting the number of chickens allowed based on the lot size, establishing a set-back limit and setting standards for protective enclosures.
They said that adherence to the rules could be achieved with a permitting process and yearly inspections. The suggestion was made to begin with a three-year trial period.
Some of the concerns heard from citizens at a previous council meeting included foul odors, noise, health issues, the loss of property values and that chickens attracted predators. The current ordinance will only allow chickens if they are kept on property of five or more acres.
In the presentation to the council, suggestions made included that chickens were to be raised only for egg production. Coops must meet a defined standard and be located in back yards, not visible from any street, and be positioned at a minimum distance of 50 feet from a residential dwelling on adjacent property. A half-acre lot was suggested as a minimum size where they would be allowed. Chickens should be confined to their coop at night, thereby reducing the attraction of coyotes since they are nocturnal. Roosters would not be allowed unless the property size is three acres. Roosters are not necessary for egg production, said Mr. Workman. The idea, he said is not to be operating a business, but to have eggs for personal use with any extra to be given or sold to neighbors.
Mr. Workman listed benefits from raising chickens as educational opportunities for children, for pest control, production of fertilizer, and that people want to know where their food comes from. Also, he said that selling eggs to neighbors would build community.
After the presentation, Mayor David Bennett polled each member about where they stood on the issue. Councilwoman Taylor Watson said the majority of lot sizes in Fairyland are too small to meet the property size rules that were suggested. She also said that she suffers from histoplasmosis, caused by inhaling spores of fungus that is found in bird droppings. She contracted the lung infection by playing with chickens as a child. "I cannot vote for it," she said.
Council member Tony Towns said, “I’m not for chickens.” He said the town does not have the resources and manpower to enforce the rules or to handle the complaints.
“I’m for it, because I believe we should be open to people’s interests in the community,” said council member Caroline Williams. If it is denied, she said, “I think we will coin ourselves as a city of No.”
“Ditto what Caroline said,” said Councilman Arch Willingham. He would like to put a limit on the number of houses where chickens would be allowed. “I’m for it. I think it is a good idea,” he said.
"I’m leaning against it, but will talk to a lot of neighbors and give it some attention before the next meeting," said Councilman Jim Sabourin. “I’ve not heard even one Yes from people who have contacted me about the issue, but I have had about 25 calls from people who are opposed. I’m here to represent those people," he said.
Mayor Bennett said he started out being opposed but now is in favor of giving it a try with restrictions. He asked each member to study the information from the presentation concerning chickens and any additional data before the next meeting at which time everyone can give an updated opinion. A vote will take place at the February meeting. If the decision is to allow chickens, it would go to the planning commission, which would establish parameters to consider for a new ordinance.
In other business, the council voted to change the date and time of city council meetings. They will now be held on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
Two home sharing applications were approved, one for Lane and Lea Courtney and the other for Mark Wardell.
Councilman Willingham gave an update to the PUD ordinance that is being considered by the planning commission. He said the commission had gone beyond what the council charged them with doing. The purpose of creating a PUD ordinance was intended to allow higher density only in development of the town center, he said, not to also create PUDs in the southern part of the city. Instead, the planning commission is looking at spreading it out, which was not the original intention, he stated.
There has already been a public hearing, said City Attorney Bill Pickering, but the public is welcome to go to the next planning commission meeting where the PUD ordinance will be discussed again. After a new ordinance is recommended by the planning commission, it will be sent to the council and will require two separate votes before it becomes a law.
Councilwoman Williams reported upcoming events at Fairyland School that include a spelling bee, a community wide art show on Feb. 13 and Junior Achievement at the end of February. Baseball is underway with the first game next week. The aquaponics project has almost reached its goal. Around $30,000 is still needed before construction can begin.
Two new officers for the Lookout Mountain, Ga. police department, Danny Ellis and Adam Hurst, were introduced by Councilwoman Watson. Chief Todd Gann presented the statistics from the fire and police departments from December, which included 2,996 miles patrolled, 19 traffic stops issuing 13 citations and 13 warnings. There were five auto accidents, and assistance was given to five motorists. There were three assist citizen calls and no thefts or burglaries. Nine burglar alarms were checked, as well as four suspicious vehicles and two suspicious persons. Response was made to 12 fire alarms during the month.
Architects are still working on the Town Center project, said Mayor Bennett. He hopes to have a public unveiling of the plan by March.