Council hears proposal to allow chickens in city limits

Robin Lohman asked Iola City Council members to adopt an ordinance similar to Ottawa's that allows residents to have chickens for egg production or to raise for show in fairs and similar events. She offered a petition with 250 signatures.

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Local News

March 26, 2024 - 1:25 PM

Robin Lohman asks Iola City Council members to consider an ordinance that would allow for the keeping of chickens. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

Owning chickens within Iola city limits was at the forefront of Monday evening’s Iola council meeting. Current city code states it is unlawful for any person to “keep, harbor or feed” any domesticated fowl within city limits. 

Robin Lohman hopes council members will change the code. 

Lohman suggested the council adopt an ordinance similar to Ottawa’s that allows residents to have chickens for egg production or to raise for show in fairs or similar events. A person could have up to six chickens (16 weeks of age or older) or up to eight chicks per tract of land, regardless of how many houses are on the tract.

Lohman’s request had a long list of stipulations and requirements pertaining to how the chickens were to be housed, cared for, and maintained. Some of these included specifying that the coop consist of sturdy wire or wood fencing and be located near the rear of the property. In addition, the coop would need to be 10 feet from the property line and 25 feet from neighboring buildings. 

“By requiring the chicken coops to be in the backyard, it would be out of view for people concerned about property values,” said Lohman. She also proposed the city charge a one-time fee of $25.

A petition has been circulating in support of an ordinance allowing chickens in town, according to Lohman. “As of tonight, we have 250 signatures,” she said. Several other community members were present at the council meeting that echoed Lohman’s sentiments. 

Thrive Allen County CEO Lisse Regehr noted she supported the efforts 10 years ago when a pair of fifth-graders — Levi Meiwes and Jacob Riebel — had approached the council about allowing chickens in Iola. “They did so much research at the time,” she said. “We still support this today.” 

Regehr added allowing residents to have chickens could help lessen commercial reliance and promote healthier eating. 

Iolan Candice Grundy stated that chickens are a starter animal for many youths who participate in fairs. 

“Some of these kids may not have the privilege of living on a farm,” she said. Other positives included using chicken manure as fertilizer for gardening and helping keep insects at bay. 

Council member Jon Wells expressed concern with possible issues that could arise pertaining to the recently passed ordinance that helps distinguish whether a dog is a nuisance, dangerous, or vicious. “Theoretically, if a chicken gets into my yard and my dog attacks it, my dog would be classified as vicious,” he said. “Unless we add a caveat to the vicious animal ordinance, I’m not OK with moving forward with allowing chickens in town.”

Council members Joelle Shallah and Kim Peterson also had concerns with the request. “I get the sustainability part of it,” Shallah said. “I understand that your intentions are great and I can see terrific follow-through from those passionate about it. There are going to be those who are going to fall short. The bottom line is, it’s going to become a nuisance.” 

Peterson noted such an ordinance should have strict guidelines. “Coops should be at least 50 feet away from the house next door,” she said, noting the importance of being respectful of neighbors.

Concluding the conversation, Mayor Steve French said the consensus among council members is to dust off the current ordinance and take another look at it. “We’ll also look at the vicious animal ordinance,” he said.

IN OTHER news, council members were presented with data collected by city staff giving an overview of neighboring cities’ transient vendor license ordinances. This was in response to a request from council member Shallah to compare the city’s transient vendor license fees and procedures to surrounding communities.

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