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Afton commissioners cry fowl over regulations

Strict regulations on how to keep chickens in an Afton proposal were stripped away last week by Planning Commission members concerned with over-regulation.

Afton Planning Commission on Monday, Oct. 3, whittled down a proposed ordinance allowing chickens on lots less than 5 acres.

During the meeting, commissioners eliminated a proposed passage governing chicken coop standards. The provision called for specific height dimensions and construction standards to resist rodent infestation. The item also required chickens to be kept in coops from sunset to sunrise as a way to limit attacks from predators.

"I'd like to stay away from coop standards," Commissioner Kris Kopitzke said. "It seems ... over-regulatory."

Other items struck from the proposal included a provision providing for conditions and inspection of chicken operations on lots less than 5 acres. That included the elimination of a section prohibiting slaughter and breeding.

Instead, commissioners added a section prohibiting commercial slaughter and breeding.

That satisfied commissioners who suggested owners be allowed to slaughter chickens if their egg production is low.

"If they want it in the soup pot, that's fine," Commissioner Richard Bend said.

Commissioners decided the ordinance should still require a permit, which would be a one-time cost of $50. Applicants would also have to submit a diagram to the city of lot size and the location of a chicken coop.

Not everyone was in favor of the permit requirement, including Commissioner Michelle Dunkirk, who indicated she would like to raise chickens under the proposal.

"Why do we have to have a permit for everything that we regulate?" she said.

City Administrator Sarah Irvine responded that when complaints are registered, the city must send out an employee to check on the issue. That draws on city time and money, she said.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Barbara Ronningen added that a $50 lifetime cost for raising chickens wouldn't be cost-prohibitive to someone looking to raise fowl.

"You can't afford the permit, you can't afford the chickens," she said.

Up next for the proposal is a November public hearing, which Ronningen said she doesn't want delayed.

"I do not want to horse around with chickens," she said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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