Powell City Council lacked enthusiasm about approving a zoning ordinance to allow a girl to raise chickens in the city.
Maggie Carter, 11, stood before the council Tuesday night (Nov. 15) asking for a change in the city’s zoning code allowing residents to raise chickens in the city.
“I want to ask if I can have chickens in my backyard,” she said, “so I can learn to raise them.”
Carter appeared before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted unanimously on Oct. 12 to recommend changing the existing code.
She told the council she had collected 14 signatures from her neighbors who supported her in raising chickens in her yard.
“Not one neighbor was against us having chickens in our yard,” she said. “Over the last 6 months we’ve worked with the Planning and Zoning Committee to change the code and allow chickens. The zoning code was approved by the Zoning and Planning Commission last month,” Carter said.
Carter told council that the City of Columbus and Bexley currently allow chickens to be raised in residential areas.
“I’m requesting that the City of Powell change the city code to allow chickens in our backyard,” she said.
Jon Bennehoof, vice mayor, said he applauded her interest in wanting to learn animal husbandry, but said he was going “to come down on the negative side.”
Bennehoof said in his research on the subject he had found 25 communicable diseases prone to chickens and about 20 natural predators that live in Delaware County.
“I consulted one of the first veterinary diplomats in the United States that I happen to know and he said chickens in a residential neighborhood was not a very good idea,” Bennehoof said. “For all those reasons I won’t be inclined on our second reading, unless some miracle happens, to be able to vote for this.”
Councilman Frank Bertone said also has health concerns. “I’m basically concerned about the health side of this conversation,” he said.
Councilman Tom Courts asked his fellow council members to reflect on a few things. First he said, “Next to hog manure, chicken manure is one of the worst smells.”
Courts said Powell is surrounded by agricultural areas and “there it’s appropriate,” he said. “But in the City of Powell I do think we need some uniformity.”
Councilman Daniel Swartwout noted that in the city if a person is found in violation of the current zoning code he or she could be sentenced to jail time.
Mayor Brian Lorenz told the Carters they would not be voting on the ordinance change until its second reading at the Dec. 6 meeting. Council is still seeking input on the matter.
“We going to ask our staff for some information to help us make the best decision for the whole city,” Lorenz said. “I want to commend you. You’re very brave for bringing this up and you should be very proud of yourself and I’m sure your parents are as well. It takes a very special person to do what you’re trying to do here.”
The council asked staff, before the second reading, to find out how many Powell home owner associations had restrictions on raising chickens and to look at other communities’ application approval processes.
After the meeting Maggie said she was unsure how the vote would go at the second reading next month.
“I don’t know because that guy was saying things about diseases and stuff,” she said. “I’m not sure.”
Maggie and her family aren’t giving up and will continue to look for ways to convince council to allow Powell residents to raise chickens. “Maybe I could call Bexley and see if they have had issues with the diseases,” she said.
Renee Carter, Maggie’s mother, added, “We’ll be doing our research before the second reading.”
Maggie’s father, Stephen Carter, said the conversation got started because they are surrounded by Liberty Township, where there are horses and chickens.
“It was really hard to explain to her that they live in Powell where there is an ordinance against raising chickens in the city,” he said. “We decided to go through the process and learn about it.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.