Monday, Feb. 13 marked another short meeting for the New Richland City Council, but despite the runtime of just under 30 minutes, the meeting still held implications for big decisions down the road.
Nearly half the time was dedicated to council discussion on the the issue of allowing chickens to be raised in city limits. Currently, New Richland city ordinances only allow for the raising of chickens, which the city labels as “farm animals”, in the agricultural district of the city on a property of at least 10 acres. However, at least one resident would like to see that ordinance changed.
“I don’t know if anyone has brought chickens before you before, and allowing for the raising of chickens in city limits,” Melissa Gregg, a resident of New Richland, said. “However, I would like to bring it to your attention, and I have a list of reasons why.”
Gregg’s list focused primarily on the idea of food insecurity; where families that are already struggling financially may not be able to afford what were previously common groceries with the rising prices we’re experiencing.
“It helps set food security, as well as introduces healthier food. Eggs that come from backyard chickens, who are raised on a healthier diet, … are healthier than the eggs on supermarket shelves,” Gregg said.
Gregg also brought up that raising “animals like chickens” is a requirement for some 4-H programs and can help teach children (and adults) about where their food comes from. She concluded her opening statement to the council by pointing out that larger cities, such as Minneapolis and Mankato, as well as smaller towns nearby, like Janesville and New Ulm, all have ordinances that allow for chickens to be raised in people’s backyards.
The suggestion seemed to be taken fairly well by the council, with Councilor Loren Skelton wondering if Gregg had heard any issues about the ordinances in the closer communities. Gregg said she hadn’t heard any feedback one way or another, but most city ordinances regarding the raising of chickens allow for the city to repeal the ordinance “at any time.”
“So I imagine if there was some issue, if something wasn’t working, they just wouldn’t have these ordinances anymore,” Gregg said.
Following the initial discussion, Gregg presented a draft ordinance to the council, which she compiled from both Janesville’s and New Ulm’s ordinances on raising chickens. The ordinance, which spans just over two pages, allows for residents to keep up to four hens on a property smaller than two acres, or eight hens on a property bigger than two acres.
It also requires that the coop for the chickens must be kept at least 25 feet from any residential building on both the owner’s property and any adjoining property. It also allows the neighbors of someone seeking a permit to raise chickens the right to ask the city to refuse the application.
Questions from the council were on who would license the permits and how the inspections of coops would be done, with City Administrator Anthony Martens telling the council that they could make the ordinance “as loose or as intricate as you want it to be,” and that he would reach out to Janesville and New Ulm to get some advice on how to structure an ordinance like this.
Before the passing of any new rules, the council would have to hold a public hearing where residents would be invited to come and give their thoughts. At this time, no meeting of that nature has been set.