Cottage Grove to consider allowing chickens, ducks on urban, residential lotsAfter spending her formative years on a rural Minnesota farm, grocery store eggs just won’t cut it for Rykna Olson and her family. That, she said, is why they keep three chickens housed in a coop the size of a small garden shed tucked behind their Jeffery Avenue home in Cottage Grove. Earlier this year, the Olsons were warned by city code enforcers and then ordered to get rid of the fowl after neighbors complained to the city’s Community Development Department.
After spending her formative years on a rural Minnesota farm, grocery store eggs just won’t cut it for Rykna Olson and her family. That, she said, is why they keep three chickens housed in a coop the size of a small garden shed tucked behind their Jeffery Avenue home in Cottage Grove.
“We enjoy the farm eggs,” Olson said at a recent public hearing. “After growing up on a farm, they just don’t compare with grocery store eggs.”
There’s just one problem with that slice of farm life in the midst of suburbia: it’s a violation of city ordinances.
Earlier this year, the Olsons were warned by city code enforcers and then ordered to get rid of the fowl after neighbors complained to the city’s Community Development Department.
Now, though, enforcement of that order is on hold as the Cottage Grove Planning Commission considers whether to amend the city’s zoning ordinances to allow chickens and ducks in urban residential lots, a move other suburban cities have made in recent years.
The city’s current ordinance allows farm animals on any residential plot in the city that is larger than five acres, said John McCool, a senior city planner. The typical suburban residential lot is roughly a half-acre in size, he said.
The issue of chickens and waterfowl in urban neighborhoods came to the city’s attention in April, officials said, when neighbors filed complaints with the Community Development Department. Planner John Burbank said at a Planning Commission hearing last month the complaints concerned noise created by the birds.
Olson discounted that claim, saying her family’s hens are quiet and well-kept. Her husband, Brian Olson, told the commission “the dogs in my neighborhood are much more noisy.”
“Chickens can be a problem if you don’t take good care of them,” Rykna acknowledged to commissioners. But, she added: “We take good care of them”
Bob Burtman is also facing an enforcement action from the city if the zoning code isn’t updated for the pair of mallard ducks his family keeps as pets. The city has also received complaints regarding the ducks, officials said.
But, Burtman said, his pet ducks are little different than cats or dogs.
The ducks “sit on your lap,” he said. “You can hold them; they’ll sit on my shoulder like a parrot. They are, to us, like a cat or dog.”
And, he said, the ducks produce less waste than more common household pets.
“You can let a dog go to the bathroom all winter in the backyard” and still comply with city code, he said. “And, in the spring you get a lovely aroma.”
Planning Commissioner Brian Pearson, however, raised the concern that not all fowl owners would be as fair as the Olsons and Burtmans. That, he said, could create problems in more urban neighborhoods, where homes and yards are in far closer proximity than rural areas of the city.
“There’s going to be people who don’t take care of them,” he warned. “That would be an issue for me.”
City officials are expected to draw up language for an updated ordinance that would allow some types of fowl to be kept on urban lots for Planning Commission consideration late this year. A proposed update could then go to the City Council for approval.