Council hears request for backyard hens

Debate revived by supporters

Jill Schramm/MDN Bailee Saltzman speaks to the Minot City Council Monday in support of allowing backyard chickens in Minot.

Six years after city council members decided against chickens in Minot, additional advocates for backyard hens are again requesting the idea to get another look.

Bailee Saltzman of Minot, who spoke at Monday’s Minot City Council meeting, said she has collected 257 signatures of support for backyard chickens so far.

She spoke to address concerns raised regarding chickens since council members were contacted a few months ago about changing the animal ordinance. She addressed noise and talked about the importance of taking the right precautions to avoid disease and predator attraction. She said hens are more than pets in providing eggs, so owners are motivated to ensure they are clean, healthy and safe.

She said she contacted the City of Fargo, which allows hens, and learned problems are a handful a year and mainly regarding a loose chicken or question about coop compliance. She contacted Mandan, where the animal control officer reported calls about chickens are rare.

“I also don’t think if we allowed it that we’d suddenly get a whole bunch of people having chickens in their yards. In Fargo, they only had 17 active permits last year – 28 the year before that. Mandan averages around 15 permits each year,” Saltzman said. “I’m sure there are people that don’t get permits when they should, but even if that number was doubled, in Fargo that’s only 50 to 60 homes.”

Opposition came from Elizabeth Hoppman of Minot, who raised many of the concerns discussed by Saltzman. She reminded the council of the 5-2 vote in 2017 that defeated a proposed chicken ordinance.

“A large number of the citizens of Minot, in 2017 and now, do not want to live next door to live chickens. Even from people with backyard chickens, the cons outweigh the pros two to one. My main concern with regard to the cons is property values,” Hoppman said. “Would we buy a house that had a chicken coop or chicken coops next door? My answer would be a definitive ‘no.'”

Council member Lisa Olson voiced hesitancy about reviving issues settled in the past, whether backyard hens or the strip club ordinance also discussed Monday.

“I’m not making these comments to say that we can’t ever look at them again because I think it is important that we do look at them on a timely basis. But I think it’s also important to note that many of those opinions have not changed over the last six or seven years. And so, if we are going to open up discussion on these ordinances, I kind of anticipate that we’re going to have the same response,” she said. “If we are going to do that, it should be, as the city manager had recommended, that we look at it very comprehensively, we take our time and we make the right decisions. Because if we start making decisions based on one situation, I think we’re going to get ourselves into trouble.”

Council member Paul Pitner responded it is healthy to take a second look.

“My mind has changed on many topics over the years – and sometimes it hasn’t,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we are open to looking at things and if people from the community want us to look at things or want us to take up issues, that we do our best and our due diligence to hear them out and we don’t just dismiss them and say we already talked about that.”

The council took no action Monday related to backyard hens.


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