Chickens and beer see no action at August NA aldermen’s meeting

There was hardly any chicken and no beer at all at the monthly New Albany aldermen’s meeting Tuesday – at least in terms of discussion concerning the agenda.

What were likely two of the most-anticipated topics were the questions of whether to allow beer and light wine sales at public special events in the city and whether poultry can be kept by residents in town.

The beer issue was apparently triggered by the upcoming Tallahatchie RiverFest.

Mayor Tim Kent said tourism and marketing director Sean Johnson had asked about being allowed to have a beer garden somewhere in the concert area during the downtown event.

Although discussed at the previous board meeting, the beer question did not make it to Tuesday’s agenda. Mayor Kent said he was polling aldermen by phone but based on the calls he had already made it did not appear that the beer sales would be approved.

Normally, creating or changing a city ordinance requires a public hearing with 30 days’ prior notice and, if passed, the ordinance must wait another 30 days before becoming effective.

That time requirement would make the question of beers sales at RiverFest moot, but Mayor Kent said it is his understanding that when aldermen updated all the city ordinances some years back, they reserved the right to make requirement changes concerning festivals without having to go through the full ordinance process.

While aldermen have some latitude in regulating beer and light wine sales, any action relating to stronger spirits and wine would have to be approved by the State Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The chicken controversy grew out of increasing complaints in several neighborhoods about neighbors’ being disturbed by crowing roosters and the nuisance of chickens running free onto their property.

The only form of livestock specifically prohibited in the city now is swine. If a resident objects to someone in the neighbor having poultry, he or she can file a written complaint with the city and the owner will have to get rid of the animals.

Mayor Kent said at an earlier meeting that this system is not working well because it can just create or increase animosity between neighbors and fear of some form of retaliation.

A public discussion was held during the July board meeting with chicken supporters citing economics, healthy locally-produced food and sustainability as reasons to keep the birds. Opponents talked about noise, odor and physical damage done by the chickens coming onto their property.

Aldermen were asked to consider the matter and talk about it at Tuesday’s meeting but the board members obviously were not ready to vote.

Mayor Kent suggested looking at livestock ordinances in nearby cities before taking action and those on both sides of the issue agreed.

Informally, Mayor Kent said the sentiment by aldermen seems to be prohibiting roosters anywhere inside the city unless it is an area zoned as agricultural. Board members seem to be willing to let residents keep a limited number of hens as long as they are in a coop.

As an example of a nearby ordinance, Kent said later that Tupelo prohibits roosters within the city but residents may keep hens in an open area as long as they have at least one acre and are a minimum of 250 feet from neighbors. The area must be fenced. Alternately, hens must be kept in a coop, not to exceed 200 square feet, and kept clean, at all times.

Although no hearing was formally set, the chicken ownership question is expected to come up at the September board meeting.

“We don’t want to hurt anybody,” Kent said. “We know we can’t make everybody happy but we want to make as many happy as we can.”