City talks chicken issue

GLADSTONE – Chickens were once again a hot topic at Monday night’s Gladstone City Commission meeting following a petition against the birds being filed with the city.

Nine residents signed the petition, which cited noise, appearance, smell, allergies, and the other animals that would be attracted to chickens as reasons for being against the creation of an ordinance allowing chickens within city limits. The petitioners also noted many live in the city simply to avoid farm and country living.

Originally the city had intended to have staff research the issue of allowing the fowls in the city limits and bring the information to the July 28 city commission meeting. However, staff has determined that additional time will be needed. Information about the issue will be presented at the Aug. 11 meeting; the commission will then decide whether an ordinance should be drafted.

In addition to the petition, the city is gathering information by conducting an online survey for residents to express their feelings on the chicken issue. Residents can find the survey on the city’s website at www.gladstonemi.org under the “News” section.

While responses will be anonymous, the survey is designed to weed out anyone who may not be a resident of the city – including those who have Gladstone addresses but are not in the Gladstone tax area.

Despite the survey not being completed, the commission is already using survey data to gain a feel for what residents want.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on our Daily Press’ online survey – that’s been actually going on longer than any survey that I’ve seen thus far – and it’s generally maintaining a 60-40 in favor of allowing limited chickens in town,” said Commissioner Matt Gay.

As of 9:30 p.m. Monday night 1,707 responses had been submitted to the Daily Press’ online poll.

“There was actually a lengthy discussion of whether or not we should do our own,” said City Clerk Kim Berry, noting the city’s survey would include more questions to clarify residents’ opinions.

Residents on both sides of the issue came to Monday night’s meeting to state their opinions.

“I have had experience with this in the past, and I can tell you nobody wants four chickens that they can name and their children can go out and muck with them and they’re pets. They want a dozen good laying hens and that requires a rooster,” said resident Jerry Barnhart. “Roosters don’t operate like Walt Disney. They don’t crow once in the morning and shut the heck up.”

Nathan Belongie, a resident who currently has chickens, had a different perspective on the issue of chickens in the city.

“People do have three or four chickens and have their daughters go out and name them and turn them into pets because that’s exactly what our chickens are, and they are cleaned on a daily basis,” said Belongie. “There is no difference between having a bag of chicken food in a closed container in my garage than there is a little old lady with a bag of birdseed in her garage.”

Beyond the research city staff is currently conducting to help the city commission make an informed decision about the birds, the commissioners themselves are researching the issue. Gay, who visited Belongie’s coop, sees allowing chickens as a positive for the city.

“I think being heavy-handed on things like that when we can come together and put forward an ordinance that allows – within reason – people to do the things they want to do in the city, I think something like that would put people away from Gladstone more than higher taxes.”