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Rathdrum to mull chickens

by Brian Walker
| November 9, 2010 8:00 PM

RATHDRUM - City staff is recommending that the City Council doesn't scratch the law on having chickens in town.

The current law states residents must live on at least an acre to have chickens, but the council last month decided to consider allowing the birds on smaller lots after resident Jennifer Mayberry made the proposal.

The council will discuss the proposal tonight during its meeting that starts at 6.

City Administrator Brett Boyer, in a memo to the council outlining the pros and cons, recommended that the law not be changed.

"When weighing the choices of allowing or not allowing chickens, the issues of nuisance, health, valuations to property ... seem to outweigh the benefits to allow chickens," Boyer wrote.

Councilman Fred Meckel said he opposes modifying the existing law.

"We're not a tiny city like we used to be, and I think having chickens in backyards would be a bad thing," Meckel said. "It seems like 90 percent of the homes have a dog, and I see a problem between the dogs and chickens. I'm sure there are some very responsible chicken owners looking to do this, but I think there will also be some who are not as responsible."

If the law changes, Meckel said he hopes there's regulations such as requiring a conditional-use permit, chicken number limits and coop requirements.

"I don't think they should be free-range at all," he said.

Boyer said if the council chooses to maintain the current law, it will need to be enforced because Mayberry is currently in violation with chickens on her lot.

"I would also recommend you allow 30 days for the chicken owners to get rid of their chickens," he wrote.

Boyer recommended that, if the council decides to change the law, the new ordinance would prohibit roosters, require hens to be in a fully enclosed area with a minimum setback from homes and that a limited number be allowed for each residence.

Some subdivisions don't allow chickens, regardless of the lot size.

"The city has the responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of people and property within the city limits," Boyer said. "While the risks seem low for health issues associated with chickens there are some issues (such as odor, noise, attracting predators and loss of property values)."

Mayberry, who lives on Kamloops Drive, said having eggs raised at home is a way to cut costs and have healthier food for her family. She said other cities have recognized that some citizens are going back to their roots by raising chickens.

But neighbor Desiree Struble said she has concerns.

"Her bird jumped the fence into my backyard and chased my dog around," Struble said. "I immediately called my dog in for fear the bird would get the dog or the dog would get the bird."

Struble also believes the chickens will make it hard to sell her home.

* In other business, the council will discuss wither the city should take action on an abandoned excavation project in the Ranch at Corbin Crossing subdivision northeast of the corner of Lancaster and Meyer due to safety concerns.

The project, which is on private property, was not bonded for completion because the proposed subdivision plat has not been recorded.

The work began and ended last spring.

"Staff has heard of the possibility of several options by which the project would be finished, but at this point none has come to pass," city attorney Jerry Mason wrote in a memo to the council.

"The potential risk that I see is the possibility of sloughing, which could be a threat to trespassing children who might dig into the side slopes of the excavation to form a cave or shelter, only to have the materials collapse on them."

Mason said the law requires landowners to mitigate potential hazards, even to protect innocent trespassers, but he doesn't believe the site is even posted.

Gregg and Shirley Smrz, the Coeur d'Alene applicants listed on a map of the project, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

"There is no assurance of recovery of any costs because of the questionable solvency of the site owner," Mason wrote.

* The council is expected to pass a resolution increasing the sewer rates 2.5 percent rather than 4.5 percent as proposed last month. The lower increase than earlier anticipated reflects the same hike made by Post Falls, which treats Rathdrum's wastewater. Officials from both cities said there was a communication error on finalizing what the new increase should be.

* The council will also consider donating $1,000 to the senior center's Meals on Wheels program.

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