What started out as a discussion item regarding the ability to raise chickens in the City of Ludington turned into a vote not to pursue the issue further during Monday’s regular city council meeting hosted via the video-conferencing application Zoom.
Members of the city council discussed much of the feedback each received as well as sought out from neighbors in their respective wards and people outside the city on the prospects of residents being allowed to raise chickens.
Councilor Joe Lenius said the issue, if it continued, would go to the buildings and licensing committee twice more before it returned to the council as a potential ordinance. He made the motion to send it back to the committee for further work, and it was seconded by Councilor Kathy Winczewski.
The council then voted unanimously against it.
“If I can extract this a little bit,” said Ludington Mayor Steve Miller, “(Is) this issue now dead? At all levels?”
And it was affirmed that it was, until it is raised again.
During the discussion, a variety of concerns were voiced. Winczewski said a question was posed on an email Listserv of other cities, and she said there was a difference between those undisclosed locations and Ludington.
“Most of them require more land than what we require in a city lot,” she said, referring to the city’s typical lot size of 60 feet by 140 feet.
Zoning and Planning Administrator Carol Ann Foote cited several reasons against an ordinance in a memo to the council, and Winczewski said she also spoke with four farmers — three in Mason County — about raising chickens. Concerns that were raised were the noise, the potential for dogs to attack the birds and salmonella poisoning.
“I do appreciate where people know where their food comes from and to be self-sufficient to provide some of their own food,” Winczewski said. “That is super-important with what is going on with our insecurity in the supply lines and everything else. I understand some people’s need to want to do the chickens. But I guess I’m not ready to tip my hat there yet.”
Councilor Angela Serna said her concern was over potential enforcement. She said if a chicken coop were in a fenced-in yard, seeing violations of the ordinance would be difficult.
“They just can’t go on someone’s property. It has to be what we see,” she said. “How will we know? How is the enforcement officer going to know if the people are selling the eggs or are they really cleaning their pen? It it fenced properly? Is it clean and sanitary? You won’t know unless you inspect it.”
Councilor Cheri Rozell suggested residents may want to support the local farms and farmers via a venue such as the farmers’ market.
The council approved a pair of motions, one to authorize the city attorney to draft an agreement for rental rehabilitation development program and the other to authorize the city manager and city clerk to sign the agreements.
A question was raised as to whether it was OK for a member of the Downtown Development Authority to be a party to these kinds of agreements via the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Mayor Miller said past DDA board members have been the beneficiaries of these kinds of agreements, from Barley and Rye to SpinDrift to Blu Moon to Salon 22.
“As far as I know, the MEDC has not had any issues with any of these selections of any of those folks,” he said. “Therefore, I see none for what we are about to address here.”
The two properties in question are 119 W. Ludington Ave. and 212 W. Ludington Ave.
“They have followed the guidelines for this entire process,” said City Manager Mitch Foster. “They hit every deadline and everything before them.”
The agreement that was proposed to be drawn up is a first, Foster said, in regard to a requirement from the MEDC. He believed that because many employees of the MEDC were working remotely over the past several months, some requirements where they were relaxed are being scrutinized closer.
“Anyone dealing with a state agency right now are finding things in their regulations they have never enforced or done differently in the past,” Foster said. “Now the they are at home working and not in the office, they are finding things. So that may be part of this. We are really not quite sure.
“I do know that when this came up, which was, I believe, it was a week ago, that we were notified that this had to happen.”
The agreements, if and when approved and signed, would allow for the city to have a legal recourse against the developers should something not work out, Foster said.