Backyard chickens, street-legal golf carts could be coming to Jax soon

By Gary Scott on March 15, 2016 at 5:20am

Jacksonville aldermen passed the first reading of two ordinances Monday night that would allow more backyard chickens, and for people to drive golf carts on the street.

Both items were debated during workshop under the Planning and Public Works section. The chicken ordinance saw more debate before a vote was taken during the regular portion of last night’s City Council meeting. It narrowly passed, 6-4, while the golf cart ordinance passed with a more comfortable 8-2 vote.

Voting to allow no more than four backyard chickens with a 25-foot setback were Marcy Patterson, Travis Richardson, Bill Scott, Mike Wankel, Steve Warmowski and Jeff Hopkins. Lori Large-Oldenettel, Ben Tomhave, Tony Williams and Don Cook voted “no”.

Cook raised considerable objection to the bill during workshop and before the vote was called.

“In the six years I’ve been on the council, I’ve never had as many phone calls from constituents or from people stopping me on the street as I have regarding this particular ordinance,” says Cook.

“I cited a number of different issues that were concerns of my constituents- the fact that there’s a smell, there’s noise, it can bring unwanted, other animals into their neighborhoods and everything. Plus the fact that there’s a lot of residential areas that have very small backyards,” he continues.

Warmowski originally proposed an ordinance last August after a city resident brought the issue to City Council’s attention after receiving an ordinance violation for having hens.

He says lots of research was done on this issue, and deference was given to the nationwide trend of cities allowing residents to have hens.

“There’s already existing ordinances for nuisances, if you don’t take care of your hens, don’t pick up the hen litter. So, if you have a problem under this ordinance with your neighbor, it’s just a question of calling the city inspection department. They come to the property line, if they can smell anything, that would be a nuisance and a code violation,” he says.

“But at the same time, it’s a really positive thing for people who are interested in 4-H, people who are interested in gardening, people who are interested in just having a pet.”

Warmowski calls the 25-foot rule a compromise.

“It’s basically a property rights issue, where if somebody has a property and they want to have a couple hens, I think we should allow them to use their property,” he says.

“At the same time, we need to have certain rules and provisions to make sure you’re not impacting your neighbors. So, with the setback provisions, the limited number of hens, and all the other existing codes, I think it’s a good compromise that people can have a couple hens, and you won’t be able to smell or hear anything next door,” he adds.

Cook sees it differently.

“200 feet down to 25 feet, I don’t think is really a compromise. A lot of people just don’t want them that close. I think 25 feet is just extremely too close,” he says.

Cook also raised concern about the chicken coops, noting there was nothing in the ordinance regulating the structures. He called this ordinance a case of the “tail wagging the dog” during the workshop.

Warmowski says the new rule doesn’t affect the current ordinance of allowing roosters for residences with a 2-hundred-foot setback.

The first reading of an ordinance allowing golf carts and UTVs to be driven on all roads in Jacksonville except state highways also passed. Alderman Travis Richardson said minor adjustments were made since the ordinance was last discussed last month, including upping the permit fee to $1-hundred from $75.

Language regarding windshields and horns were also added.

Don Cook and Ben Tomhave voted against the golf cart ordinance.

Both the chicken and golf cart rules still must have a second reading.

Aldermen passed a resolution approving the final plan for the new dog park in Jacksonville. We’ll have more details on that this afternoon.

Edit: no labor agreement was passed Monday night, as previously reported. An item was taken off the agenda, and the city attorney says a resolution could be passed at the next meeting.