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Chicken proposal moves on in Afton

Afton Planning Commission agreed unanimously to recommend approval of a new ordinance regulating chickens on smaller lots during its Nov. 7 meeting.

Afton Planning Commission held a public a hearing on an ordinance that would allow for chickens on lots smaller than five acres.

At the public hearing, Afton resident Bonnie Blackley questioned whether or not the city should include language prohibiting cockfighting rings.

Planning Commission chairwoman Barb Ronningen said she felt the fact that roosters weren't allowed would suffice in protecting against cockfighting.

"I don't particularly care to be woken up by 3 a.m. to some rooster, so I'm glad you're not allowing roosters," Blackley said.

Additionally, the keeping of chickens for commercial use, such as for slaughtering, breeding or raising, is prohibited.

Blackley questioned whether or not the no-commercial use would apply to someone selling eggs at a farmer's market or to a neighbor.

"There's many more eggs than any one family can handle in one day," she said.

Ronningen said the selling of eggs in such a fashion would be no different than another resident selling excess tomatoes or other crops.

The current livestock ordinance states properties of five acres can have one chicken. If there are at least two grazeable acres on those lots, the property can have up to 100 chickens.

The topic of chickens in Afton began in August after several Afton City Council members heard from residents seeking chickens on their property, but didn't reach the acre requirement.

The proposal would allow up to five chickens on a half-acre parcel. For every additional half acre, another five chickens will be allowed. On properties that are four-and-a-half acres or more, but less than five acres, those properties could have up to 45 chickens.

Roosters, or other fowl, would not be allowed.

Residents who have chickens would be charged a one-time permit fee of $50.

Those properties that have chickens will be required to monitor odor and noise pollution with respect to neighbors.

"You do not have to have a coop, but if you choose to have a coop those are the standards," City Administrator Sara Irvine said.

During earlier meetings, there was some back and forth on whether or not to require chickens be kept in a coop, or some other shelter. Ultimately Planning Commission decided not to require a coop, but did designate requirements if a resident should choose to build a coop.

One of the requirements states that any structure greater than 180 square feet would require a building permit.

Another requirement for chicken coops would relate to setbacks from wells and all residential structures. The ordinance would require all chicken structures be 25 feet away from septic systems, wells and neighboring structures, as well as the property owner's residence.

The reason for the setbacks is to prevent contamination of the city's aquifers and ground water.

"We're trying to keep people healthy and safe," Ronningen said.

However, during last Monday's meeting, there was some criticism, both from the public and commissioners, that the setbacks didn't make sense for someone with fewer than five chickens.

"I think it's a good thing to take a look at this ordinance and find a way to support this happening in Afton," resident Valerie Stoehr said. "But, this may be unnecessarily restrictive."

Planning Commissioner Sally Doherty specifically cited 4-H students who only have two or three chickens in a cage in the backyard.

"I'm trying to look out for the 4-H kid," she said.

Ultimately Planning Commission changed the 25-foot setback requirements for chicken shelters to apply to only those properties that have more than five chickens on their property.

Afton's chicken ordinance will next go before Afton City Council for approval at its Nov. 15 meeting

See the Nov. 23 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin for a story on how Afton City Council voted.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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