Gazette Editorial Board
Iowa Citians may soon be able to join the backyard chicken movement.
Iowa City councilors voted 5-2 last week on the first readings of two ordinances that would open the door for residents to own a small number of hens within city limits.
If they approve the final two readings, the council still would have to establish regulations for chicken owners to follow.
A few of the ideas councilors have floated — such as requiring any would-be chicken keepers to get permission from their neighbors before they would be allowed to keep the birds — seem over the top. Council member Susan Mims pointed out that Mims said no other zoning issue in the city gives people such authority.
It would be neighborly, of course, for residents to let neighbors know they plan on keeping chickens. Always, they must be responsible so that noise and odor don’t interfere with others’ quality of life.
Yet city council and city staff must be careful, too, not to make rules that are too cumbersome or invasive. Or rules that are punitive even in the absence of any problem.
Once the zoning ordinances are tweaked, existing noise and animal ordinances should take care of most concerns about potential problems.
A few chicken-specific rules will be needed, but so far, concerns about noise and odor issues haven’t been borne out in other communities — such as Cedar Rapids, Palo, Hills and Mount Vernon — that in recent years have OK’d ordinances allowing residents to keep the birds.
In Cedar Rapids, complaints have been few and far between, according to the city’s animal control staff. We imagine Iowa City’s experience would be similar.
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