OK, so it’s not as if the fate of the free world rests on Iowa City councilors’ decision to finally discuss the idea of allowing backyard chickens.
It’s one of those things the kids would call a “first-world problem” — i.e. something to feel a little guilty complaining about.
Funny, considering that one of the arguments against allowing poultry within the city limits is that it’s sort of a hick thing to do.
But it’s about time Iowa City councilors take up the issue. It’s been three years since residents presented them petitions with nearly 700 signatures asking them to consider allowing Iowa Citians to keep a few hens.
Three years since the city’s leaders chickened out and punted to a newly elected council, which declined even to discuss it after it became clear that new members took a dim view of urban fowl.
Three years during which towns such as Cedar Rapids, Hills, Palo and now Mount Vernon joined cities such as Des Moines, Sioux City, Madison and Chicago in passing ordinances setting out reasonable, practical rules allowing chickens within city limits.
Meanwhile, in Iowa City, pro-chicken folks couldn’t even get chickens on the agenda, even though it clearly was an issue many wanted to discuss.
That’s changed now, after chicken advocates brought in a second petition, this time signed by nearly 1,000 people. Council finally has listened.
More than that — they’ve acted. In split decisions, they approved first readings of two chicken-friendly ordinance changes that would allow chickens under the city’s zoning code and establish a permit process for owners.
They still haven’t agreed on a policy that would outline the regulations chicken owners would have to follow.
Council members disagree about how best to balance the interests of those who consider chickens to be backyard heroes, converting weeds and bugs into nutrient-rich eggs and garden fertilizer, and those who think they are stinky, pooping villains that threaten to jeopardize our peaceful neighborhoods.
Discussions are sure to be heated, feathers ruffled. But no one’s political fortunes are going to be made or lost by this decision. Like I said, this isn’t earth-shattering stuff.
But it’s stuff that’s important to Iowa Citians, and that’s all it should take for council to take it on.
Comments: (319) 339-3154; jennifer.hemmingsen
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