Last week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog on how a proposed City of Cape Girardeau ordinance to allow residents to have chickens could spiral out of control.
I postulated that the regulation change could result in livestock hoarding with a menagerie of farm animals roaming our neighborhoods unchecked. Granted, the likelihood of that scenario actually happening is nearly nil.
However, I still think this is an asinine decision on the part of the four city council members who voted in favor of the first reading of the bill to allow citizens to have chickens.
Here's what I want to know from these four public servants:
Would they want a chicken coop next door to their homes?
Perhaps, those four -- Mark Lanzotti, Kathy Swan, Debra Tracy and John Voss to be specific -- live in neighborhoods with private Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions that already prohibit livestock or outbuildings such as chicken coops. If that is the case, then this regulation change will never impinge on them personally.
Instead, this ordinance will only affect the rest of us plebs who live out amongst the older parts of town that were developed either without or before subdivisions with CC&Rs became commonplace.
Here's the way I look at this issue:
If the City Council feels it should allow residents to have chickens to satiate the local Pro-Poultry Party (Current Membership: 1), then shouldn't this be more of a zoning variance request?
If chickens are going to be a nuisance, they're going to be a nuisance to the person or persons living right next door. For instance, I don't really care if the couple next to Debra Tracy decides they want to pretend they are Oliver and Lisa Douglas and setup a hen house in their backyard. It has no impact on me.
However, if one of my neighbors whose property adjoins mine decides they want to imitate Green Acres, I think I should have a say. After all, I have to live next to it.
Now before anyone responds to this blog and posts a dissertation (I'm talking to you, Chicken Whisperer) regarding all the wonderful benefits of having chickens and that chickens have never been shown to reduce a property's value and the fact that all these other cities from coast to coast allow residents to raise chickens, let me say this:
I don't care.
If you want to own chickens in this area, then go live out in the county. I pay higher property taxes living in the city of Cape Girardeau for a number of reasons including that the only chickens or chicken products I want to think about will be baked, stewed, sliced, fried, covered in Asian Zing sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings, over-easy, scrambled or come in a bucket.
I don't want to be the Poultry Patrolman for my block trying to identify if the odor that is lingering in my backyard or the infestation of flies is because of the flock next door.
And as far as chickens influencing a property's value, that's very hard to prove one way or the other. Personally, if I was considering purchasing a home in the city and while doing a walk-through I noticed chickens pecking away next door, I would probably pass on that property.
And while a lot of cities have made it legal for their residents to own chickens, so what? That was their decision, not ours.
To be fair, the ordinance that the city has drafted is very detailed. It spells out very specifically what it takes to be an Authorized Chicken Rancher in the City of Cape Girardeau. They've also fixed a few loopholes in the existing Prohibited Animals List. Ostriches, camels or llamas are now forbidden, although anyone with a pet buffalo is still OK.
But even though the ordinance specifies how the chicken coop should be built (uniform walls with no scrap material) and how it shall be maintained (clean, dry, and odor-free at all times) and where on a property it shall be located (at least 10 feet from the property line and at least 25 feet from any house), I feel that in the end the policing of these rules will fall to neighbors who have to live next door to these mini-egg farms.
They will be who complains to the city regarding an odor or if a coop is not maintained or when the chickens escape their enclosure.
Aren't there already enough ordinances on the books that are only enforced if citizens complain? Why add another?
I think it is very telling that City Council member Meg Davis Proffer voted against this ordinance. After all Nelson Sparks, the citizen who has been the catalyst behind this proposed change in the city ordinances, lives in her district.
According to newspaper coverage of this issue "many residents in her ward have complained to her about an odor coming from Sparks' property."
Doesn't their opinion count? Don't they matter?
And would Council Members Mark Lanzotti, Kathy Swan, Debra Tracy and John Voss want a chicken coop located next door to their homes?
Click here to see a PDF of the proposed ordinance.