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Bulletin editorial: Enough clucking, time for a vote on urban poultry

It's important that Cottage Grove City Council members take time to study an issue before making a decision that will affect citizens and the community's quality of life.

Due diligence is a good thing; nobody wants hasty, uninformed decisions.

Yet, why is it taking more than seven months for council members to decide whether to allow chickens and other birds as pets on urban residential properties?

Council members first sought information on urban farming in April 2012, about the time that people complained about chickens and ducks that were being kept as pets in town.

Two Cottage Grove families want the city to change its ordinance so they can keep their poultry and fowl as pets. They live on city lots, not large rural land, and have been violating an existing ordinance but were allowed to keep their feathered friends while the city explored the issue. While some of their neighbors have complained, the pet owners also have gathered signatures to show that other neighbors back their birds.

Six months later, in October, planning commissioners discussed whether to change the ordinance to allow fowl and poultry on lots smaller than five acres. They eventually kicked it to the council, seeking direction on whether to keep studying the issue. Study it more, the council said.

Ultimately, three city commissions, along with city planners, recommended that the council not allow poultry and fowl on smaller city lots.

But the issue was back in February, when council members said they wanted still further information before voting. So they held a workshop in March.

Did that provide ample time and discussion to make a decision about chickens?

Not quite.

Now the council has invited a chicken rescue organization to present later this month to an annual meeting of the council and all city volunteer commissions. The council would then vote May 1, though there clearly is precedent for delayed votes on this issue.

Residents wondering why the delay might have found Mayor Myron Bailey's comments telling last week. Clearly bothered by the protracted poultry debate, Bailey said the issue has been thoroughly vetted.

"It appears that we're afraid to make a decision," Bailey said. "I think we've dragged this chicken and duck thing out way too long."

Urban farming is small trend but it is growing in popularity. Just last week neighboring St. Paul Park approved an ordinance allowing chickens and bees.

Some people keep chickens for the fresh eggs, others keep them or other birds because they think they're nice pets. There are plenty of people, however, who see the birds as farm animals belonging on farm land, not in city backyards.

There are reasonable arguments for and against relaxing the ordinance, but it's time council members hatch a decision and move on.