City council meets

The Milton City Council approved Tuesday, July 7, first readings of two ordinances, one allowing residents to keep chickens and a second allowing residents to keep bees.

Both ordinances, with some adjustments, will return for a second reading likely on July 21.

Before opening a public hearing, Mayor Anissa Welch said she had received several emails in favor of urban chickens and none in opposition.

Although not a resident of Milton, Joan Thompson, addressing council during the public hearing, said she was interested in the proposed chicken ordinance because she has family members in Milton.

She asked about property line and building setbacks required to erect a coop, and questioned language within the ordinance citing a need for a building permit, further asking about permit costs.

Resident Karl Thompson expressed a desire to keep more than four chickens, noting that his family eats seven eggs per day and chickens do not always lay eggs daily.

Pointing to setbacks of 25 feet between coops and residential lots or structures as outlined in the ordinance, Molly Thompson asked if a garage counted as a residential structure.

City Administrator Al Hulick said the setback of 25 feet would not apply to garages and other auxiliary buildings.

He said a permit was intended for the keeping of the chickens and not meant as a building permit for a coop. The city does not issue building permits for doghouses, he said.

Director of Public Works Howard Robinson said fees for permits were set through resolution and not included within the ordinance. He suggested that a nominal fee of $5 could be set, the recording of which could give the city a reference when keeping track of who owns chickens.

Building permit fees are one-time fees, he said. He also suggested that the word “habitable” might replace “residential” within language describing structures and setbacks.

“I think this ordinance needs to go back to the drawing board,” a resident said. “Chicken manure can travel a long way because it is so high in ammonia,” he added.

Councilmember Theresa Rusch said she had received communications from residents both for and against the ordinance. Those who opposed the ordinance cited smell, roaming chickens from neighbors’ yards, concerns about an enforcement process, and manure disposal.

Councilmember Lynda Clark, too, asked about disposal: “Is that a garbage thing?” If people have complaints she asked, should they call the police?

Cat litter is disposed of in the garbage, councilmember Larry Laehn said.

Language within the ordinance stipulates that neighbors of those applying for a chicken keeping permit would be notified and could request a public hearing about permits on an “applicant-by-applicant” basis, Hulick said. Code enforcement issues, would be handled in the same manner as any other code enforcement issue, he said.

Council approved the first reading with revisions including changing language from residential to habitable structures within setback requirements and clarifying the fee and permitting process.

The proposed beekeeping ordinance underwent a similar process, with several speaking in favor of beekeeping within the city.

During the beekeeping public hearing, a resident explained that hives, as they become more productive, grow by stacks. He suggested limiting stacks might be applicable when considering hive size.

The ordinance allows two hives per keeper.

Residents asked for clarification regarding training. The ordinance asks for “verification.” A resident asked if it would suffice to read a book or should she take a class?

Laehn said classes, completing in certification, were available online.

Council approved a first reading of the beekeeping ordinance with revisions, including changing training requirements from verification to certification, clarifying sizes of bee populations by number of hives and stacks, and allowing neighbors to enter into agreements of mutual hive ownership.

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