A new ordinance that would allow Detroit Lakes residents to keep chickens within city limits was given its first reading at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
The first reading was approved by a 6-2 vote of the council, with aldermen Ron Zeman and Dan Wenner voting against the measure.
Zeman voiced his concerns about the proposed ordinance, noting that he was concerned about the possible adverse health effects — in particular, the potential for exposure to salmonella.
One of the proponents of the new ordinance, Nina Kleinschmidt, said the potential risk of salmonella exposure was minimal, and it would be up to the owners to make sure they adhered to all aspects of the ordinance.
"I hope you give us the chance," she added, noting that people who raise chickens tend to take good care of them.
"This (raising chickens) is an expensive proposition," said another proponent of the new ordinance, Geri Simpson. "Not everyone is going to be flocking to put chickens in their backyard."
She, however, would like the opportunity to spread her love for raising chickens onto her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The keeping of urban chickens has previously been prohibited under Detroit Lakes city code. The new ordinance, titled Ordinance 455, would amend that city code to allow homeowners to keep up to four chicken hens (roosters and all other farm animals would still be prohibited), providing they have obtained a city-issued permit to do so.
Under the proposed ordinance, one of the requirements for obtaining such a permit would be that the chickens must remain confined to a coop and/or chicken run at all times. The permit can be revoked if chickens are found to be "at large" — i.e., unconfined or out of the control of their owner — more than once. In addition, the chicken coop/run must be located on the premises of single family residential homes only, and the minimum lot size is set at 7,500 square feet. They also cannot be kept inside any residential structure, including basements, porches, garages, sheds, or similar storage structures, and they cannot be kept on a vacant lot.
The proposed ordinance would also allow residents to keep up to three dogs, cats, rabbits or guinea pigs — or combination thereof — providing that all of the animals have been sterilized (i.e., spayed or neutered). If the animals have not been sterilized, the maximum number of pets that would be allowed to be licensed under the new ordinance is still two per household, as it has been in the past.
Another provision of the proposed ordinance pertains to the permitting of a dog run or enclosure on residential property. The new regulations would allow a dog run or enclosure to be constructed, provided that it covers an area less than 500 square feet, is screened from the view of all adjacent property owners by a solid fence or landscape buffer (minimum 4 feet in height), and is located no closer than 10 feet from any lot line.
The proposed ordinance will be given a second reading, with a vote on its final approval/disapproval to follow, at the council's Dec. 12 meeting.