Chesterton Tribune



Chickens not yet coming home to roost in Porter neighborhoods

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The Porter Town Council said it needs more time to research whether chickens should be allowed in residential zones. Members Jeannine Virtue and David Woodrich expressed opposing views on urban chickens.

Current town code restricts keeping certain domestic animals or fowl including chickens to a minimum of five contiguous acres of land in town; 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.

Three weeks ago Eric Joll of Michigami Trail requested permission to bring back the chickens he had for at least seven years but had to get rid of this past year when he learned they were illegal.

In that letter he said the chickens provided fresh eggs and natural pest control, dethatched and fertilized the yard as well as ate food leftovers that otherwise would have gone to waste.

Having chickens is sustainable living and good for the environment, he told the council Tuesday. “If you care for them responsibly they’re not a nuisance at all and they’re fun, they’re like pets.”

Joll said he previously had a rooster for a short time and the neighbor complained so the rooster was relocated. One audience member asked if peacocks would be allowed. Joll said the Porter ordinance does allow having up to 25 homing pigeons.

Council president Elka Nelson said she was surprised her research showed other urban areas allow chickens with certain restrictions, but those ordinances have some kind of local animal control board. In Porter, “I’m not sure who to give chicken jurisdiction to.” She said chickens should be registered with someone to make sure they are not intended for animal cruelty such as cockfighting.

Wodrich lives near Joll and said he doesn’t see a problem amending the ordinance so it’s adaptable for neighborhoods.

For his Third Coast Spice Cafe and Lemon Tree restaurants, Woodrich said he wants fresh ingredients that aren’t genetically engineered like much of today’s food supply, and he encouraged people to get back to eating true food.

Virtue said she has concerns about allowing chickens across the board in residential areas, especially when there’s high density; there are certain town standards and county standards and Porter has areas not meant for farm animals.

Virtue also said hens can outlive their usefulness so some animal shelters are overwhelmed with drop-offs, and chickens can carry salmonella.

Joll’s wife Samantha said turtles can carry salmonella and people should use proper sanitation with all pets. “It’s no different than a chicken in your back yard.” She said they have a fenced back yard and fencing could be required in an ordinance change. Jennifer Klug recommended fencing the chicken enclosure.

Joy Joll said it’s better that children are around farm animals because it builds up their immune systems.

Pilar Berman said it might be acceptable to allow three to five chickens if the property is a minimum one acre or more. Virtue agreed. Nelson said the typical Porter residential lot is 60 feet by 120 feet, less than an acre.

Other city/town ordinances can be reviewed, but as a community Porter generally likes to make its own decisions, said Nelson. “We probably can figure this out on our own. We just need to figure out how it works.”

If the Town Council decides to allow chickens in urban zones, a proposed ordinance amendment would be forwarded to the Porter Plan Commission for consideration, a public hearing and recommendation to the council for final action.

In January the City of South Bend amended various sections of its zoning code by including regulations that allow keeping no more than six hens; standards are given for a chicken coop or pen. Obtaining an annual $20 urban chicken permit is required.

23rd Street paving near

Public Works supervisor Brenda Brueckheimer said paving is scheduled for 23rd Street from Wood Street to the Chesterton/Porter town boundary. While the road will not be widened, it will be remilled and repaved adding a crown to better drain water. Additional shoulder work will be done at a later date.

A resident said repaving won’t help, but Brueckheimer asked to give the improvements time to prove themselves. Other Porter paving is planned for Porter Avenue when the lift station construction is completed, Lincoln Street when the new Indiana American water mains are done, and portions of League Lane and Woodlawn Avenue.

Opt-out payment tabled

Nelson said more information is being sought on how to structure payments to any town employee eligible for health coverage who opts out a qualifying spouse who can be covered under another plan.

The council is seeking clarification whether a town employee who proves they can have health coverage elsewhere also can opt out; in either case the town employee could receive $3,000 per year paid over 26 pay periods. Officials have said despite the payouts the town would be money ahead.

In other business:

* Terry Gault asked when missing sidewalks would be installed along Lincoln. Brueckheimer said not this year but they’re on the town’s radar.

* The council gave first reading to an ordinance banning parking on both sides of Summertree Drive from Waverly Road to Saddleback Drive. Patrons of Seven Peaks Waterpark have been parking on Summertree. A final vote for adoption is required.

* Brueckheimer said Aug. 25 is the last week for brush pick-up until Oct. 1 when leaf/brush pick-up resumes. This year her department has had 238 calls for pick-up above its normal volume. Brush/leaf schedules are available online or by calling 926-4212.

* Porter’s electronic-waste collections have netted 561 items such as computers or 9,300 pounds of recycling that would have gone to landfills.

* In 2012 Porter’s four USAgain drop-off sites for unwanted shoes, clothing and other textiles collected 11,517 pounds or 66 cubic yards diverted from landfills.

* Brueckheimer said Porter installed the first two of six planned pet-waste stations; the project is sponsored by the town Stormwater Board to help prevent pet waste from contaminating groundwater.

* Porter Park director Brian Bugajski said tonight at 7 p.m. the final outdoor concert at Hawthorne Park takes place. City Lights will entertain and vendors will be on-site. Free dance lessons begin at 6 p.m. in the gazebo.

* The Town Council next meets Aug. 27. Nelson said the Sept. 10 council meeting likely will be canceled, a special public budget meeting take place Sept. 17 and a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget take place Sept. 24.

Posted 8/14/2013