Discussion on whether to prohibit poultry in city continues

New Albany aldermen continued discussion, but delayed action on, whether to prohibit poultry inside the city limits at their regular July meeting Tuesday.

Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson had brought up the question at the June board meeting because residents had expressed anger over roosters crowing and chickens running loose in their yards, causing a nuisance and sometimes property damage.

Mayor Tim Kent noted at the time, “We have received lots of complaints,” and said the number of fowls in the city is apparently increasing.

The current ordinance prohibits keeping or raising “any fowl, livestock or other animals excepting dogs, cats, birds and other household pets within 300 feet of the residence of any other person who shall complain, in writing, to the mayor and board of aldermen regarding the same.” As the mayor noted, some neighbors are reluctant to put a complaint in writing.

The only type of animal expressly prohibited is swine.

Olson said at the June meeting he was seeking the thoughts of other aldermen on the issue and, although there was no public hearing as such, the matter was opened up for citizens’ comments Tuesday.

A sample revised ordinance drawn up by city attorney Regan Russell would move chickens into the same category as swine, prohibiting them completely. The only other courses of action mentioned in discussion were to leave the ordinance as is, or to permit poultry only in agriculturally-zoned parts of the city.

In comments Tuesday, Northside resident Jean Bufkin argued that keeping poultry was in tune with efforts to promote community gardens, farmers’ markets and other efforts at sustainability, a quality sought by those promoting recycling efforts as well. She said that cities such as Tupelo and Atlanta, rather than prohibiting poultry in town, encourage it. “Prohibiting poultry would give New Albany a black eye,” she said.

Lauren’Paige Tate said the problem with neighbors’ objections was learning how to be respectful of them. “I have chickens,” she said, and added she tries to be respectful. “Some cities limit the number of hens and roosters,” she continued. “We’ve been moving forward with composting and sustainability,” she added in agreement with Bufkin. She also argued that chickens are a benefit to low-income families, teaching them responsibility and allowing them to have their own eggs. “If you ban them completely, you are not supporting sustainability,” she said.

“Think about regulating them and keeping them in our own yard, not in a cage, but not banning them altogether,” Tate said. “We have to be respectful of our neighbors.”

Most seemed to agree that roosters are the biggest problem but no one made a suggestion relating to them only.

After more discussion, Alderman Olson offered an amended version of the proposed motion to not prohibit poultry, but only to restrict them to agriculturally-zoned areas.

The aldermen, who had just accepted and eaten locally-produced devilled eggs handed out by Bufkin, remained silent and Olson’s motion failed.

That does not mean the issue is dead, however. Attorney Russell told those present that Olson’s proposal still can be voted on at the Aug. 5 board meeting if he brings it up and aldermen indicated they will vote on it then.

And if the ordinance ultimately does remain unchanged, all it takes to have poultry removed is a written complaint from a neighbor living within 300 feet.

The penalty for failing to get rid of the poultry is not substantial but does escalate. There is a fine of $5 for the first offense, $25 for a second offense and $50 for a third (and subsequent) offense with each day the poultry remains being considered a separate offense.