Porter Town Council
member David Wodrich moved to amend the zoning ordinance regulating backyard
chickens, but the motion died for lack of a second Tuesday.
The council took
public input on the matter followed by council members Jeannine Virtue, Elka
Nelson and Rob Pomeroy expressing concern over relaxing the rules as
suggested. President Greg Stinson was absent.
Police chief James
Spanier said the current Porter ordinance regulating urban chickens was
adopted in 2005 and modeled after Valparaiso’s at that time.
In May, Porter
resident Laura Madigan asked that the town allow chickens on smaller
residential lots than the current 5-acre minimum. After last night’s meeting
she urged supporters of urban chickens to keep coming back.
"I think if more
people are concerned about it, it might make a difference if it’s brought up
repeatedly,” she said.
Madigan removed her
chickens after learning they weren’t allowed on her property because of its
size; Tuesday she told the council that chicken owners have no right to
conduct an illegal activity, but they do have a right to challenge an
Also speaking to
relax the rules were Eric Joll and Journey Joll; he brought the matter to
the council in 2013 but the issue was never revisited.
This time, six
residents as well as council members presented opinions on property rights
versus municipal zoning, enforcement, fresh eggs for a healthier lifestyle,
and whether chickens are pets or farm animals.
restaurant owner, said he favors two chickens --- no roosters --- with
restrictions and registration for a normal lot. He said chicken owners
typically are dedicated, although Nelson said history hasn’t always proven
that to be the case.
Virtue said it’s an
invalid argument that property rights are being denied by not allowing
chickens on smaller lots. A town can exercise control over property in a
legal manner, she explained, and having chickens is a want, not a right, and
no one has the right to conduct illegal activity.
Virtue also noted
there is an expense to amending town ordinances and she’s not sure it’s
warranted at the request of two families, especially when more people she’s
talked to are opposed to or neutral about it than in favor.
Tapper, Madigan’s neighbor, said relaxing the rules regarding chickens would
discourage potential buyers of adjacent property resulting in a lower
property value; chickens also can carry disease and face being abandoned
when they stop laying eggs, according to Tapper.
there’s no evidence chickens lower property values, and dogs/cats can be
considered nuisances as well, especially if allowed to run. Nevertheless,
“You don’t say you can’t have beagles.” Wodrich agreed dogs can present
problems for neighbors.
The concerns voiced
are appropriate to talk about, said Madigan, but chickens shouldn’t be
banned over a theoretical problem with no evidence to back up whether it
Eric Joll said one
can get salmonella in a restaurant but they’re not banned. He said the
discussion was turning into a pro-chicken and anti-chicken divide when there
is a middle ground to be found through good enforcement of sensible
Beale said she has 1 acre and her family eats a lot of eggs so she prefers
to know where they come from. Chickens also offer the opportunity for 4H
interaction. She called for further investigation but said a few chickens on
1 acre isn’t excessive.
Council member Elka
Nelson said she did educate herself on the topic, including talking to
people who tired of their chickens after a few years. If town rules are
relaxed, Nelson predicted it could be an administrative nightmare to enforce
new rules like requiring a license to keep chickens with several
observed it can be more expensive per-egg when chicken upkeep is factored
into the cost than buying organic eggs at the store. “I love grass-fed beef.
Can I have a cow in the front yard?” she asked, reminding residents that
restrictions as well as rewards come with living in a town.
whether the council wanted to let the current ordinance stand or begin the
process of amending it, which would include a future public hearing. Wodrich
called for changes, but no one else supported doing so at this time.
In other business: