Council Minutes 9/26/11

The following is a cut & paste copy of the official minutes from the Billings City Council meeting of 9/26/11( , as pertains to the urban hen initiative:

The public comment period was opened. The following people testified in favor of urban chickens. The testimonies and discussions included the health and environmental benefits of homegrown eggs and misconceptions that chickens would be running loose, were noisy, smelled, attracted mice and predators, and spread disease.

 T.J. Wierenga (sic), 2215 Beloit

 Helen Hampton, 1012 Constellation

 Karen Sunderland, 529 Avenue B

 Carol Braaten,183 Lexington Drive

 Nicole Thompson, 428 Tumbleweed

 Bill Iverson,3115 Turnberry Circle

 Jason Jam, 402Yellowstone

 Catherine Lynch,5402 Cobblestone Avenue

 JoAnne Bylsma,609 Miles Avenue

 Ingrid Rosenquist,203 Lewis Avenue

 Emily Gocke-Smith,2520 Lake Heights Drive

 Susan Jordan,2108 Yellowstone Avenue

 Sara Johnson,3217 37th Street West

 Sara Hilbert,602 Alderson Avenue

 Brad Johnson,3217 37th Street West

 Stacie Pannell,406 Yellowstone Avenue

 Joy Stevens, 539 Indian Trail

The following people testified in opposition of urban chickens. The testimonies and discussions included the City/County Unified Zoning Code that stated agricultural uses were restricted in all residential zonings, which included fowl; intrusive and unnecessary noise; potential contention and conflict between neighbors; attraction of predators; and the infringement of property owner rights.

 Tom Zurbuchen,1747 Wicks Lane

 Greg Jahn, 921 Harvard

 Doug Ruebke,110 S. 31st Street



 Ulledalen: Moved to direct staff to bring back a report to Council with ideas on the Hen Initiative, seconded by Councilmember Ronquillo. He said he did not think Council had enough information to make a rational and reasonable decision. He asked staff to look at ordinances in other communities and come up with reasonable guidelines that could apply toBillings. He asked staff to bring back the issues other communities who approved urban chickens were having. He asked for feedback on whether enforcement would be done by Animal Control, Code Enforcement, or the Police Department Volunteers. He asked for reasonable restrictions that could be implemented, such as lot size, condos, duplexes, etc. Councilmember Ulledalen said the report from staff would be the basis to either bring an ordinance forward or reject it.

 Councilmember Astle said he would not support urban chickens no matter what additional information was brought forward and suggested buying organic eggs.

 Councilmember Ruegamer said he would support the motion but one of his concerns was with people who had the right to say they did not want chickens next door. He said there were already many irresponsible pet owners inBillings, and he did not want to create new issues with urban chicken owners.

 Councilmember Cimmino said she supported Councilmember Ulledalen’s motion but wanted to offer an amendment to include the formation of an ad hoc committee to include members in the field, veterinarians, people actually involved in the Hens Initiative, a couple councilmembers, and Planning Staff to get all the information available so they could make a concrete decision and present it to the public at a public hearing.

 City Administrator Volek advised a Council Ad-Hoc Committee, by ordinance, required a resolution. Councilmember Cimmino said she would include the requirement of a resolution in her motion. The amended motion was seconded by Councilmember Ruegamer.

Councilmember Ulledalen said he thought they would be jumping the gun because it would require a lot of staff time, public meetings, and notices, etc., and there may not be enough support on the Council to go forward with it. He said they needed to bring the initiative back and if it was warranted from there, they could talk about it but if the initiative failed, there would be no point in doing all of the work.

Councilmember Cimmino said she understood where Councilmember Ulledalen was coming from and she appreciated and respected his opinion, but with all due respect to everyone involved, there had already been a lot of time expended on it. She said it seemed to her they should take a proactive approach and embrace a possibility so everyone was aware that all of the issues had been thoroughly researched from both sides of the coin.

On a roll call vote, the amended motion failed 8 to 3. Councilmembers Ronquillo, Gaghen, McFadden, McCall, Ulledalen, Astle, Clark and Mayor Hanel voted in opposition. Councilmembers Pitman, Cimmino and Ruegamer voted in favor.

Councilmember Pitman said he wanted the legal staff involved because they needed clarification as to where the law actually sat.

Councilmember Gaghen said she thought it needed to be looked at from the Unified Code standpoint, as well. She said it needed to be a thorough effort on the part of staff.

Mayor Hanel complimented the group who prepared the binder that was delivered to the Council. He said it was very well prepared and professional and contained a lot of good information. Mayor Hanel said he understood and appreciated all of the testimony that evening but one thing that was not mentioned that should have been was that there were Subdivision Improvement Agreements and Covenants and Restrictions, and hens would be in violation of the recorded, legal documents. He said he was not personally against chickens. He said he grew up and handled 35,000 chickens and said he still thought they were the ugliest, most stinking things to have around. He said the eggs were good for people, but he questioned whether they belonged in the city limits. He said he had spoken with many people regarding backyard hens and very few supported it. Mayor Hanel said the city was looking at very serious financial difficulties, which included law enforcement and animal control. He said it may even result in lesser of those protecting people in the future, and he did not think they needed to bring on any more headaches and problems. Mayor Hanel said he may be proven wrong, but that was just his opinion.

On a voice vote, the original motion was approved 9 to 2. Councilmembers Gaghen and Astle voted in opposition.


2 responses to this post.

  1. By the way, for those interested in reading a verbatim copy of the binders prepared for city personnel, please note that it has been posted as a page (A Case for Backyard Hens in Billings) on this blogsite for several weeks to date (10/7/11). We welcome other cities seeking urban hen-keeping ordinances to use whatever information they would like from this document, as well!


  2. Posted by cynthia on October 8, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Hanel seems to let his past prejudices overcome his responsibility to be open-minded and fair. The fact that he brings up his historic negative reaction to poultry, and the misguided connection to this issue, makes me sure that I will not support his position, and that I will strongly advise against any future position with my city. This meeting has only further convinced anyone listening that Billings is out of touch with the changes in the rest of the country. No wonder we own the stereotype we do…


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