Backyard chicken, street legal cart ordinances approved by Jacksonville City Council

By Ryne Turke on March 29, 2016 at 1:00am

New backyard chicken and street legal golf cart ordinances are taking effect in Jacksonville.

Two weeks ago, Jacksonville aldermen passed the first reading that would allow more backyard chickens in the city.  Aldermen Marcy Patterson, Travis Richardson, Bill Scott, Mike Wankel, Steve Warmowski and Jeff Hopkins approved the chicken ordinance, while Lori Large-Oldenettel, Ben Tomhave, Tony Williams and Don Cook voted “no”.

The bulk of the Jacksonville City Council meeting on Monday was spent discussing the pros and cons of the chicken ordinance, which has been up in the air since last August.

Alderman Cook started the discussion by making a motion to table the chicken ordinance until a later date. While the motion would eventually fail to receive enough votes, Cook pointed out that constituents in his ward had his phone “ringing off the hook” stating they didn’t want chickens ruining around the neighborhood “scratching around yards, defecating and making lots of noise.”

Cook added that the language in the ordinance about chicken enclosures was still unclear.

Alderman Williams questioned who would be the “chicken police” when there was an issue and if the city had looked into the health concerns that chickens bring to the community.

Alderman Scott countered those arguments by bringing up the fact that Jacksonville doesn’t regulate dog and cat enclosures, so special circumstances shouldn’t be made for chickens.

Alderman Large-Oldenetell stated that Morgan County Animal Control only keeps runaway chickens for 24 hours. The chickens are not fed and can only be housed if cages are available.

Coming into the Monday meeting, the proposed chicken ordinance allowed no more than four backyard chickens with a 25-foot setback.

A motion to revise the distance regulation was made by Alderman Warmowski. The motion, which was approved 5-4, states that chickens must be 15 feet away from an owner’s side lot, five feet from the rear portion and at least 35 feet from your neighbor’s house.

Before the final vote on the chicken ordinance, Aldermen Williams and Cook, along with Mayor Andy Ezard, implored fellow aldermen to vote “no” so more discussion could take place.

Much like the vote two weeks ago, aldermen approved the chicken ordinance 5-4. The “no” votes once again came from Tomhave, Williams, Cook and Large-Oldenettel. Alderman Wankel was not present to vote.

After the meeting, Warmowski was pleased to see the chicken ordinance finally pass.

“It turns out there are chickens in yards all over the place…this is just something to bring people to compliance. It makes it so there are no roosters, which generates most of the noise complaints,” says Warmowski.

“We balanced the ordinance so there is a really low number of hens, compared to other communities. There is a really big setback compared to other communities, which will enable neighbors to protect their property rights.”

Warmowski realized there were some differences of opinions between aldermen. He feels the community should embrace the ordinance for a couple months and see what happens.

Mayor Ezard explains why he implored aldermen to vote against the ordinance at this time.

“I just felt some of the measurements, such as the existing structures of the coop, needed to be addressed and they weren’t. I know it won’t cause problems for the people in the audience. I don’t think everyone is going to run out and get chickens either. I just worry there is going to be more burden put on my inspection staff or the county to address it. We will see how it goes,” Ezard says.

Another topic getting headlines for the past few months has been the street legal golf cart and UTV ordinance for Jacksonville.

Some of the recent updates to the ordinance include upping the permit fee to $100 from $75.

Unlike the chicken ordinance, this topic had very little discussion and was approved by aldermen after an 8-2 vote. Cook and Tomhave were the only “no” votes.