MARQUETTE - Though no formal recommendations were made, the Marquette City Planning Commission showed general acceptance toward the concept of urban chickens during a regular meeting Tuesday.
The commission requested that interested citizens - about two dozen of whom showed up at the meeting - develop a detailed proposal about raising chickens and return to the board in the future. Though the group seemed to support the concept of urban chicken husbandry, commissioners said they couldn't make a recommendation of any kind to the city commission without more specific information.
The commission heard from a handful of area residents, all of whom spoke in favor of the concept.
Marquette resident Steve DeGoosh addresses the Marquette City Planning Commission during Tuesday’s meeting, which focused on the possibility of allowing ownership of chickens in the city. Though no formal recommendations were made, the commission showed general acceptance toward the idea. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)
City resident Steve DeGoosh told the group he served as a panelist for a recent Marquette Food Co-op session about caring for chickens. He said there were more than 100 people in attendance and estimated that "almost all" were city residents.
He said some people already keep chickens in the city and the fact that the birds remain largely hidden is a positive sign.
"There are, I would guess, dozens of small flocks in the city already and they go unnoticed because they're not disturbing anybody," DeGoosh said.
Others opposed the idea that chickens were inherently loud, noisy or smelly. If the birds are cared for and cleaned up after, there is little trouble, according to city resident Lynn Laakso.
"Having had chickens in an urban environment before, I can assure you that my neighbors were not exposed to undue noise," said Laakso, who added that owning a handful of chickens doesn't make her a farmer. "Raising three chickens in my backyard, I don't really consider to be farming and I don't necessarily consider it to be counter with the lifestyle of a municipal resident."
On those points, the public supporters seemed to have agreement from most of the planning commissioners, who briefly discussed how a possible chicken ordinance would be enforced.
Planning Commissioner Taylor Klipp said he felt most potential issues with chickens in the city were already being addressed.
"Nobody is against chickens. People are against noise. They are against waste. They are against public nuisance and I think a lot of the zoning laws already take care of a lot of that," he said. "If somebody is playing loud music, that doesn't mean you need to have a stereo permit ... And if somebody decides to have 20 chickens and they're flying around and digging up a neighbor's yard or something like that, I think we already have an ordinance that protects against that."
Commissioners talked about eventually suggesting minor registration fees, similar to those used for dogs, and requested reports on the issue of chickens in the city. The planning commission will ask the city police for a report detailing any issues with enforcing a possible chicken regulation, and will ask the Marquette County Health Department to detail the pros and cons of chickens in an urban environment.
City Planner David Stensaas said the planning commission was already set to review the concept of urban agriculture, as part of a rewriting of the city master plan and zoning ordinance.
He said the planning commission has set a rough goal of completing the process, as it relates to the master plan, by the end of the calendar year. The zoning ordinance review would likely take another year.
Commissioners mentioned the possibility of attempting to craft a temporary allowance for chickens in the interim.
Currently, chickens are regulated by city ordinance, which states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to keep animals within the city, except for domestic pets."
Domestic pets are defined as "dogs, cats, or animals customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.