Residents living in the Liberty Square complex of townhouses will see a sticker appear on their homes Tuesday, when the Ypsilanti Township Building Department places...read more
Residents of the city of Ypsilanti are one step closer to being able to keep chickens.
City Council passed an ordinance on first reading Tuesday night that would establish a permit system to allow property owners the opportunity to keep up to four hens in their backyards.
The ordinance was passed in a 4-3 vote at City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday. Councilmembers Lois Richardson, D-Ward 1, and Michael Bodary, D-Ward 2, as well as Mayor Pro-tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, voted against the ordinance.
If passed in second reading, the ordinance allows property owners in the city to apply for a $10 permit until June 2010. The permit, issued per property, would not expire. The principal use of the permit must be for one or two-family units, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance does not allow roosters and stipulates that the birds must be kept in structures, located in the backyard, which keeps rodents and other animals away. It prohibits slaughtering the animals. The ordinance also says keeping chickens can not violate existing noise and smell ordinances.
The ordinance expires after one year. Existing permits would be grandfathered in if the ordinance did expire.
“We did a fairly simple ordinance,” City Attorney Karl Barr said during the meeting. “This is deliberately crafted to not spend a lot of time looking at chickens and control it.”
Barr said enforcement of the ordinance would be complaint-driven, with ordinance officers responding to calls of neighbors violating the ordinance instead of regularly inspecting chicken owners.
Three people came out to the meeting to speak against the keeping of chickens in the city. Six people voiced support for the ordinance.
Daniel Ing, an Ypsilanti resident and neighbor to avid urban farmer Peter Thomason, spoke out against the ordinance at the meeting. He complained of chickens and goats roaming into his yard. He also said the bleats from goats on his property can be a nuisance.
“It can get out of control without any regard for the ordinance,” Ing said.
Thomason, who keeps 24 chickens, 21 rabbits, eight goats, a dog, cat and pet mice on his property, said he is glad the ordinance passed.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Thomason said. “Right now, this is what we started with.”
Thomason initially addressed City Council with the idea to keep chickens in urban areas in 2006. Upon an eventual denial from City Council, Thomason went on to federally register his property on Woodward as a farm and keep as many as 44 chickens and other animals on his property.
He has been in court with the city since receiving two citations for keeping his animals.
Thomason said the ordinance is a separate issue now and still plans to pursue his case in court. He said the ordinance could lead to the ability to keep bees or goats in the city.
City Council voted down to proposed amendments to the ordinance.
The first, offered by Bodary, would have put in a provision to require permit applicants to gain permission from neighbors who share a property line with the structure housing the chickens. Murdock was the only councilmember to vote in favor of the amendment.
Councilmember Peter Murdock, D-Ward 3, proposed an amendment that separated the fee from the ordinance to allow City Council the option to change it later without having to repost the ordinance. It also limited the permit’s length to two years with an option for renewal while removing the sunset provision.
Only Murdock and Councilmember Brian Robb, D-Ward 3 voted for Murdock’s amendment.
Both Swanson and Richardson voiced concern that the ordinance would be difficult to enforce with an already strained enforcement staff. They also said there were certain aspects that needed to be clarified, such as specifics about a structure’s construction and placement as well as a provision that allows neighborhood by-law and deed restrictions.
The ordinance as presented does say any pre-existing deed restrictions and neighborhood by-laws are still valid with a permit. However, these matters would have to be settled in civil court without any city involvement. However, a permit issued before such restrictions would be grandfathered.
“We have a lot of things on the books we don’t enforce now,” Swanson said. “This is just one more thing.
“The problem will be enforcing,” she said. “The problem will be clarity.”
The ordinance must be approved after a second reading by Council, which will likely take place later this month.
City Council also unanimously approved several items in its consent agenda, which is passed without discussion.
Mayor Paul Schreiber’s list of 12 appointments to the combined Downtown Development board was on the list. The board will oversee both DDA districts, though the budgets will not mingle.
Additionally, City Council voted to extend the end of its agreement with the Depot Town Community Development Corporation until July 26, the day after the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Fest.
The contract was set to expire July 20 after City Council voted to terminate the agreement June 3.
Finally, Council appointed AnnArbor.com as its newspaper of record, as the Ann Arbor News, its current paper of record, is set to shut down this month. Owned by parent company Advance Publications, AnnArbor.com will replace the News when it closes.