Chesterton Tribune



Chicken debate comes home to roost in Porter June 24

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Laura Madigan said it’s a mistake for her to have six chickens at her 1st Street home without prior permission, but she made an impassioned plea Tuesday before the Porter Town Council to keep them.

She described chickens as lively, entertaining pets with a wide variety of benefits including less noise or odor than most dogs in her neighborhood.

Norm Tapper, Madigan’s next-door neighbor, said retroactive approval shouldn’t be given for what he described as a nuisance that can spread disease, endanger wells, lower nearby property values, and attract animals like coyotes and foxes that are dangerous to children.

Madigan’s husband Mike countered each allegation and said chickens are consistent with the greener lifestyle a growing number of people seek; he urged Porter to commit itself to living green as a model for other communities.

The council decided to review whether town code should be amended regarding urban chickens and to revisit the matter at its June 24 meeting.

President Greg Stinson said he asked Madigan to present her request last night but the topic wasn’t listed on the agenda because no final decision would be made.

In July, 2013 resident Eric Joll of Michigami Trail asked the council to allow chickens in residential zones; members asked for more time to study the matter but changing the ordinance never was discussed.

Current town code restricts keeping certain domestic animals or fowl including chickens to a minimum of 5 contiguous acres of land; the land must be enclosed by a fence, and any animal shelter/feeding station must be no closer than 50 feet from an adjoining property line.

After her presentation Laura Madigan confirmed her property is 1/4-acre in size.

Council member Elka Nelson said some people live on 25-foot lots in Porter. “We have to give consideration to people who might have to end up with a (chicken) coop under their window.”

Councilman Dave Wodrich said he favors allowing one or two chickens with a proper coop, in part because one chicken usually lays one egg per day. Nelson said the number of chickens has to be based on more than how many eggs a family needs. She noted that hens only produce eggs for a limited time, so what happens when they stop laying?

Council members agreed no roosters would be allowed under any circumstances.

Councilman Rob Pomeroy said people choose to live either in town or in a more rural area for a reason, and it’s not right to impose country living on urban areas. Council member Jeannine Virtue was absent.

Laura Madigan submitted a three-page letter to council members addressing many of the concerns raised last year when urban chickens first were addressed. Nelson said she needs time to study the information, and Pomeroy said he wouldn’t second any motion setting a deadline to complete his review.

Tapper criticized an online petition supporting Madigan with postings from other cities and states. “They have no rights to dictate what happens in Porter,” he said. Madigan asked if she carried a Porter-only petition, how many signatures would be needed to impress the council?

Nelson said she didn’t know if it’s a matter of numbers alone. “If we change the ordinance, we can’t change it for your block; we have to change it for the entire town.”

Stinson said building commissioner Mike Barry also needs time to research the implications of allowing urban chickens. Barry noted oversight jurisdiction and enforcement were considerations brought up last year. Stinson said the existing ordinance regarding chickens needs to be enforced now.

From the audience Karen Pisowicz reminded officials of the unsuccessful battle that’s been waged since 2010 to rid a Porter home of more than 100 cats.

Also Tuesday, the council voted 4-0 to forward to the Porter Plan Commission proposed changes to town code regarding fences. The commission will conduct a public hearing, then make a recommendation to the Town Council regarding final adoption.

Unanimously approved was a $250,000 interfund loan from CEDIT to the Porter general fund to cover town operating expenses pending disbursement of the town’s spring tax collections.

By a 4-0 vote Porter and its Fire Department agreed to the terms of a 2014 fire-protection contract with Westchester Township. Based on responding to 16.4 percent of the 2013 fire calls there, Porter will be paid $6,200 this year.

The Town Council voted unanimously to donate $500 to the Duneland Business Initiative Group, co-sponsor of the July 4 Family 4th Fest in Hawthorne Park. DBIG had requested $1,000 and Nelson recommended donating the larger amount. A public-assembly permit also was approved for 4th Fest parade; theme this year is Old Glory and entries are asked to be decorated red, white and blue.

Barry announced the Brickyard Trail pedestrian bridge over U.S. 20 is open after a long delay. A ribbon-cutting will be scheduled soon.

Park director Brian Bugajski said the Memorial Day remembrance service at Hawthorne Park will take place May 26 at 1 p.m. there. Officials from Porter, Chesterton and Burns Harbor will present wreaths, and a veteran’s group will participate.

Bugajski and council members thanked the Chesterton Slammers baseball league for a $500 donation for upkeep of the Hawthorne Park ballfield, where Slammers play was approved for the season.

Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy’s request to spend up to $4,000 for the town hall telephone system was OK’d. She and police chief James Spanier said the system at the nearby police station has excess capacity with multiple vacant lines and by combining the two systems, telecommunications bills for the town hall can be eliminated.



Posted 5/14/2014