Chattanooga chicken ordinance getting calls to slow down

Chattanooga chicken ordinance getting calls to slow down

May 7th, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Chris Anderson answers questions during a meeting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Carol Berz

Carol Berz

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Two Chattanooga City Council members said Monday an ordinance to allow chickens within city limits needs to be vetted by the Animal Control Board before the council takes up the proposal.

"I'm going to ask that it be deferred to the people it should go to first," Councilwoman Carol Berz said. "That's why we appointed them."

The City Council is expected to discuss and vote on an ordinance that would allow up to 10 hens per household within Chattanooga city limits. Nearby Signal Mountain is the only other municipality in the area that allows backyard chickens.

Councilman Chris Anderson, who is sponsoring the proposed ordinance, said he thinks there should be no problems. He said the Animal Control Board has no legislative authority and that the council is the ultimate decider.

"It would still come before the council," he said.

A Facebook group called Chicken Legal, made up of more than 400 members, has been pressing for an ordinance change for almost a year. The council heard arguments for allowing chickens in the city three years ago, but the measure ultimately died because of concerns about health and whether the McKamey Animal Care & Adoption Center would be able to handle chickens.

Karen Walsh, McKamey's executive director, noted Monday the proper procedure is to go before the Animal Control Board first, especially because the board looks at permit issues for the city, and the new ordinance would call for a $50 permit fee.

"I think that's the process the city should take," she said. "But it doesn't have to."

Walsh opposed the proposal to allow chickens in the city three years ago and lobbied against it. But she said this time she has no objections to it.

She said last time she came into the discussion late.

Walsh said she was guaranteed the City Council would provide the necessary money for a chicken coop and any other associated expenses. She said Anderson indicated money would not be an issue.

"He indicated to me it wasn't a problem," she said.

Anderson said he is pushing the ordinance because constituents came to him during his campaign asking him to support it.

He said Walsh and the McKamey Center would be able to handle the additional work.

"She'll be able to handle it just fine," he said.

Animal Control Board members are divided about whether they should hear the ordinance first.

Board Chairman Michael Mallen said the board can hear requests such as the chicken ordinance, but it's not necessary. He said the board probably will hear the ordinance after any approval and could choose to ask for amendments.

But Vice Chairwoman Lynn Ashton said the board was created to hear these types of cases.

"I'm confused on why Mr. Anderson would ask to circumvent the Animal Control Board when it's the very thing we were tasked to do," she said. "I don't understand why it has to be pushed through so quickly without being vetted."

Councilman Larry Grohn said the council should look at the ordinance more carefully.

He has concerns about putting an added burden on the McKamey Center. He also feels the $50 permit fee could be too high.

He said he supports deferral to let the Animal Control Board vet the issue.

"I think that's what they should be doing," he said.