Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 4, 2014

OUR VIEW: Chicken keeping in Goshen shouldn't be so complex

Chicken-keeping in city shouldn't be so complex

Goshen News

---- — Aproposed ordinance that would allow Goshen residents to keep hens on their property is back. City council members voted down the measure at their March 18 meeting, but at their session this past Tuesday approved a motion to reconsider an amended version of the original ordinance.

The council on Tuesday also tabled the matter until the group’s April 15 meeting. The idea is to allow more time for council members to discuss potential changes to the measure and gather more public input.

This newspaper thinks Maple City residents should be allowed to raise chickens. Permitting Goshenites to have chickens would be in keeping with the sustainability movement that’s gained traction here and in U.S. society as a whole. We see nothing wrong with local residents having hens based on economic or health concerns. The News also sees value in humans having a more hands-on approach to the food that sustains them. That said, we find the proposed amendments floated at the most recent council meeting to be problematic.

RECALL, TOO, THAT the original ordinance spelled out several restrictions on keeping avian livestock in the city. No more than six hens could be located on any parcel of real estate, with roosters (think “noisemakers”) and other types of fowl prohibited. Chickens could only be kept as pets or for personal, non-commercial use; the selling of eggs and fertilizer would be prohibited, as would on-premise chicken slaughter. Other proposed standards target chicken enclosures and their placement and upkeep.

These standards sound reasonable to us. The News takes exception, though, to certain amendments OK’d by the council Tuesday, although we do understand why they came about. Resurrecting a defeated ordinance (by a 4-2 vote with one council member absent) does require some finesse. Minds have to be changed, and softening the perceived impact of a potential new local law may seem the best course of action.

Perhaps backing into a chicken-keeping ordinance is indeed the best way to move it forward. Still, we question the permitting process in this case, albeit as part of a trial period, that would limit the number of hen raisers in Goshen to 50. This strikes us as an arbitrary number — if a practice is allowed, why isn’t it acceptable across the board?

A REQUIREMENT TO COLLECT signatures from adjoining property owners in order to receive a permit also seems off-base. It implies there’s something unsavory about hens. We point out that Goshen residents are allowed to harbor barking, waste-producing dogs without first seeking the OK of their neighbors.

The Goshen News thinks the Goshen City Council should pass the original ordinance, with the stipulation that the issue be reviewed annually for a two-year period. Those who wish to raise chickens during that time would do so knowing the risk, and with the understanding that their compliance to the rules would be the foundation of the ordinance’s longevity.

In this scenario, city code enforcers would report to the council their observations and any concerns about hens in Goshen. So would neighbors to the residents who opt to own chickens. At the end of the trial period, council members could decide to let the ordinance stand, modify it or scrap it altogether.

That’s our take on the situation. In the days leading up to and including the April 15 Goshen City Council meeting, we hope you express yours, too.