Niles considers allowing residential chickens, seeks public input

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Photo from Metro Create Connection — Niles is seeking public input on a possible residential chicken ordinance.

Photo from Metro Creative Connection — Niles is seeking public input on a possible residential chicken ordinance.

City leaders are seeking input on a possible new ordinance that would allow residents to keep chickens within Niles city limits.

Members of the city’s ordinance committee had a lengthy discussion about issue during their regular meeting Monday evening, though no action was taken.

Administrator Ric Huff said while the issue is not a new one, it is coming up again because the city currently has request from three residents wanting to keep chickens.

Councilman Dan VandenHeede, who serves as the chairperson of the ordinance committee, opened the discussion by saying that many communities have laws allowing for the keeping of chickens in residential areas and that such laws spring from a movement of people wanting locally grown, organic food.

Councilman Bill Weimer was the only member of the four-member committee who said he is opposed to the idea.

“I would not vote for an ordinance like this,” he said.

The other members — VandenHeede, Gretchen Bertschy and David Mann — appeared more open to exploring the idea.

All agreed that they need more input from residents to gauge whether or not there is sufficient interest from residents to warrant the creation of a residential chicken ordinance.

The committee decided to schedule a committee of the whole meeting on the issue for a date that is yet to be determined.

Huff said he would try to get leaders from other communities that have a chicken ordinance to talk about the pros and cons.

The most common concerns about keeping chickens, Huff said, are the potential for noise and smell.

Although the city does not have a residential chicken ordinance, it does have an ordinance allowing residents to apply for a permit to keep chickens and other farm animals. However, those residents must satisfy many conditions, including that chickens must be housed at least 100 feet from any neighbors or public streets — a condition that most people can’t meet because city lots aren’t that large.

The residential chicken ordinance would relax that length requirement. For instance, Niles Township allows residents to keep chickens as long as the coops are located 25 feet from neighboring properties.

The Niles ordinance committee did not specify requirements for its proposed ordinance, although 25 feet from neighboring properties was mentioned.

Anyone interested in expressing their thoughts on the subject is encouraged to contact their city council representative or Niles City Hall at (269) 683-4700.