City Council MEETING




Saturday, February 12, 2011

CHIRP Comments on: Hens OK, for now -

City Hens in Roeland Park!  Yes! is what the headline reads for those of us like minded folk who believe we are part of a growing trend in lifestyle choice. What our neighbors need to know is that the permit is very strict in regards to housing and other issues. Prospective hen owners have to apply and neighbors will be notified and given a chance to speak. No roosters, no hens running at large. Generous setbacks and strict guidelines on coop designs. And a steep permit fee of $100.00. While CHIRP was hoping for a straight ordinance and less of a fee (any size dogs are only $10.00 to register), we are satisfied that we have an avenue to keep backyard hens in Roeland Park.

"OK for now" - Why the footnote? A majority vote gives citizens an opportunity to keep a few hens (within strict guidelines).  If you read the article, you will see the arguments against listed first.  The positive impact the backyard hen movement has had in cities nationwide, many right here in the Midwest, is hardly mentioned.
CHIRP has provided viable solutions for all of the issues brought forward in this debate. We have watched as incomplete information and inaccuracies have been stated as fact in public meetings. And so our rebuttal...or the rest of the story...

To Councilor Toni Hull:  It was stated at a recent City Council meeting that this part of the animal ordinance was being rewritten to clarify the ambiguous parts of the animal code-whether the hen permit was approved or not.The time spent on the writing of the permit portion of the ordinance should have been minimal since it was modeled closely after another city's ordinance.

How much time and legal fees were spent on a new ordinance governing massage therapists in our community that was passed in 2010?  How many massage therapists are registered to practice in Roeland Park? And is that ordinance not back on the table for revision because it has been discovered there are different licensing/certifications which were not covered or accounted for in the original ordinance? How much staff time is involved here? If money is an issue, perhaps convincing your peers that spending resources on a repeal and vote is contradictory?

To Councilor Bob Meyers:  CHIRP has always been in favor of a clearly stated ordinance that protects not only the city's interest, but also the citizens of this community. We agree that clarity in the process is important. As was discovered when this issue came to light over a year ago, there are lots of inconsistencies in the ordinances on the books. Perhaps this could be a long term goal of the City Council? To review the city ordinances and codes and clarify ambiguous wording and rectify inconsistent language?

CHIRP has done due diligence and discussed in good faith solutions to all the animal control issues brought forward. No one opposing seems genuinely interested in finding solutions. Everyone says they do not know anything about handling chickens and then with the next breath they are an expert on all the things that cannot be done to catch or handle chickens. Which is it?

Regarding the fact that "NEAC will not deal with this."  The NEAC is charged (according to the ordinance on record) with enforcing member cities' ordinances. They have responded to at least two chicken calls (to notify a resident to remove illegal hens), so a precedent has been set. We have been told that a chicken (gallus domesticus) does not qualify as either wild or domestic so they are not responsible for enforcing this ordinance.  So, what animal category do chickens fall under?   And let the record show that among cities with good ordinances like Roeland Park just adopted, there are virtually no animal control issues concerning chickens. Columbia, MO has had only three calls since their ordinance took effect last year. Longmont, CO Animal Control has gone on record saying that they were pleasantly surprised that they had NO increase in calls due to chicken keeping in their city.  It seems a lot of dust is blowing around what will prove to be a non-issue.

To Councilor Scott Gregory:  An overwhelming majority of the citizens attending meetings where this issue was discussed have been supporters of this action.  There have been perhaps a dozen negative comments made by citizens at public meetings.  When a straw poll was taken at the Town Hall meeting, a majority was in favor of this action.  The majority of your peers voted for this issue. Research into city ordinance would probably reveal that there are a lot of ordinances on the books that serve a minority of the population of Roeland Park. Spending more money and resources on a petition and repeal seems counter productive.

Property values are relative. There is no quantitative evidence that backyard hens affect property values either positively or negatively.  A study done in Oregon reports that the communities who allow backyard hens have higher property values. Seven of the Forbes 500 top 10 Most Livable Cities allow backyard hens. Lawrence, Ks and Columbia, MO allow backyard hens. Two families have moved to Roeland Park in the last six months because they will be able to keep backyard hens.

We have spent ten months providing fact based research and resources addressing every issue brought up regarding the keeping of backyard hens. Now that it is in place, why can't we have a chance to show that this just may indeed be a great thing for Roeland Park?

Hens OK, for now -

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